Using psychology in web design can give a site a substantial competitive advantage and help increase its user engagements. In brief, psychology in web design is about using research-based predictions in human behavior to guide users to a particular element or piece of content.
Use the following seven guidelines to strengthen a website’s design and impact. A website’s goal may vary, but psychology will always play a role in whether the site is able to engage its audience.
Build trust by making the design relevant to the target audience; to do this, consider the types of images you are using, would your audience share them to their circle of influence? Also, don’t overlook colour, not every target audience enjoys or is impacted by the same color; for example, children like yellow but men over thirty are found to be not attracted to it.
In addition, aim to include faces on your website when possible, they help create a feeling of safety and familiarity.
Don’t leave a visitor confused about where to look, use a visual hierarchy to denote the importance of various elements. This is very common in typography which uses headings, subheaders, taglines, block quotes and other various groupings to denote the importance of a given block of text. Employ the same tactics on the elements of a website to lead a user along a path.
A few standard methods to create a hierarchy are to use color, contrast, size, and location. For example a small caption is common under a much larger photo, The contrast in size tells the visitor to look at the photo first then move to the caption, in addition, the location of a photo caption will help group it with the photo.
Color can be a major influencer of a visitors behaviours on a website and even a basic understanding should be established when making design decisions. Color is a versatile tool in design since it can assist in achieving a range of goals. For example, contrasting colors can be used to increase user click through rates, for this consider the color of buttons on successful landing pages, often bright and in contrast to its background color. In addition to influencing clicks, color can be used to create a visual path, an example would be a background gradient that fades down the page, leading the visitor to scroll.
There are exhaustive resources on how color influences people, leaving little room for color schemes to be chosen based on preference or luck. To expand on this, check out this article from Designmodo.
You can create predictability by using repeating styles; for example, headings are commonly styled the same between pages so that their established hierarchy can be quickly recognized. Using repeating elements primes the visitors subconscious to identify where like-content can be found, and assists in guiding them through the website. This article expands on the importance of repetition to create consistency in web design.
Negative space is the visual area around a particular element and is usually unobstructed by additional content. To showcase this, make a large circle on a piece of paper, then place a single dot in the center, the resulting area between the large circle and the dot is the negative space. Negative space in web design is a great solution to attracting the visitor to a particular element, whether it’s a blog post, button or product. For added effect, use contrast between the size of the element compared to the surrounding negative space.
Not always in the control of the designer, but the amount of content and options present on a website should be modest to avoid visitors getting overwhelmed. In the early years of the interwebs, the trend was to jam pack a page with content to keep a user on the site. The thinking was that the more elements a visitor had to interact with, the longer they would stick around.
Now, to keep the message short and stay on point, despite how it may seem, less content and elements to interact with will actually have a positive effect on how long a visitor stays on your site. Take A List Apart for example, the focus remains exactly where they want it by reducing the amount of content on each page.
Make the journey a visitor takes on your website easy to follow. The decision path should feel intuitive to the user, and come almost naturally. Use all the previous tools to ultimately guide your visitors to the spots on your website you most want them to interact with. Avoid letting a user arrive at the footer and not have options for further engagement, abrupt stops like this are likely to influence them to leave.
Share your secrets
Psychology can be used intelligently to help achieve the goals of a website. Try implementing these guidelines to increase your user engagement and build an online experience for them. Let me know in the comments of strategies you employ that use psychology for goal-driven results.
About the Author
Marshall Taylor works and lives in London Ontario, designing Websites and Logos. He has a big interest in hand lettering and tries to always find time among the chaos to sit down and draw some words. You can follow Marshall on Twitter, Dribbble, and Instagram.
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