One of the most important aspects of website design is to elicit emotion from visitors. And that’s all because of how we are wired as human beings.
As much as people like to see themselves as being Mr. Spock-like when making decisions – applying logic and rationality to the situation – the truth is we’re not. Whether they realize it or not, people’s emotions guide them through most of life’s decisions, from the big ones (should I marry this person?) to the smaller ones (do I want the red car or the blue one?).
How powerful are emotions in decision-making? A study by neuroscientists found that people who had suffered damage to the part of the brain that generates emotions were unable to make decisions. And some researchers have argued that emotion is even more important factor in website design because users are disengaged from any kind of human contact.
Clearly, emotion is powerful in creating websites.
Examples of Design Emotion
The best sites use emotion right on the home page, evoking a feeling in the first few seconds users spend on the site.
Human smiles work well. Sites that greet people with smiling faces evoke happiness and humor. For example, the people on the Coca-Cola Global homepage are happy to sip a carbonated beverage.
People also respond to aesthetically pleasing product images, such as the one used by Starbucks on its homepage. It doesn’t hurt that they also encourage viewers to have some “me time.” The Beverly Hilton also struts its stuff on the homepage, with image after image of the beauty and glamour of the hotel.
Emotions To Evoke
Obviously, unless you have a very unconventional marketing plan, you want to evoke pleasant emotions in visitors. Some of the emotions can include any of the following: pleasure, joy, happiness (especially laughter) and surprise (but in a happy way).
How you get there depends on design elements. Some of the pathways include a combination of images, design and text that offers a happy surprise, flattery (you are smart to come to this site), joy in someone using our product (as with Coca-Cola), or high-energy, fun images and video. In some cases, you want to exude stability and professionalism, evoking trust among site visitors.
The Levels of Emotion
In designing a site, it’s important to keep the three levels of emotional engagement as described by author Aarron Walter in his book, “Designing For Emotion.” They are:
In other words, the initial, gut reaction. This happens quickly and subconsciously. It’s that “yes” or “no” feeling you get the moment you look at something. All future reactions to the site will flow from that initial reaction. Clearly, you want to evoke a positive one.
If your site passes the visceral test, then it’s onto appealing to the behavioral. If the first instinct is to like a site, then the second is to explore it and find out what it’s all about. People get excited by seeing things they like. They want to see more. This is what leads to reading content, clicking on links and responding to calls to action.
This is where the higher cognitive functions kick in and a person begins to logically assimilate what the site has to offer. This is the point where it needs to be clear what product or service is being offered and what need it is fulfilling. If you’ve won them over with your emotional design, they will be more open to this message.
Companies such as Bayshore Solutions offer creative website design services to companies looking to make an emotional impact with their sites. It’s often a wise choice to hire professionals, because the return on investment is typically high.
For example, creative companies can get into the finely grained details of creating a brand book that covers all aspects of how a brand is presented on site (down to the shades of color and aspect ratio of design elements). They understand placing the brand and its products in the proper visual context.
All this adds up to a powerful site that will attract and please users. This side of the website equation is as important as content and will go a long way to making your site successful.