The Psychology of Web Design

There’s much more to website design than simply presenting content and making it look great. First and foremost, our focus when creating a site is to ensure a positive experience for all of its visitors. How? By making certain that their needs and expectations are met through each aspect and every element.

How do customers use your site? How will they engage with it? What will influence them to respond to your call-to-action? Being aware of a few basic principles behind human behaviour and having these drive your web design decisions will help to generate positive results. Below are a few key considerations regarding users’ conscious and subconscious inclinations, to keep in mind for your next website project.

Building Trust and Consistency

Trust doesn’t come easily online, which is why nurturing it should be one of your highest priorities. Your website’s core purpose must be clear from the offset, and a clean, professional design is crucial. It only takes 50 milliseconds for users to form an opinion of your website, with 75% of people judging a company’s credibility based on its site design.

75% of people judge a company’s credibility based on its website design

Design can even be more powerful than great content when it comes to building trust, according to a study on several health websites. When respondents were asked why they cited a website as untrustworthy, a shocking 94% of the reasons given were design related. Elements that they complained about were confusing website names, poor navigation, pop up ads, and cluttered layouts.

Established patterns are also important for building trust. Whilst you may want to be forward thinking and progressive in your design, don’t steer too far away from core user expectation principles, as this can be counterproductive. There are certain fundamental “rules” based on how a viewer’s eyes will move through your site – from the Guttenberg diagram to the F and Z pattern layouts (learn more about these here). For example, company logos normally take position on the upper left corner, as this is an immediate focal point for someone landing on your site. Of course when developing an Arabic website however, it should be placed top right – to accommodate the primary users’ natural reading pattern of right to left.

94% of the reasons why users cited a website as untrustworthy were design related

Fundamentally, diverting too far from the conventions that people are familiar with online, risks negatively affecting trust.

Giving Users Breathing Room

In a previous blog post, we discussed how white space keeps people from feeling overwhelmed. No matter how tempting it may be to fill every inch of the page with useful information and attractive graphics, good designers know how important it is to leave enough visual breathing room. In fact, good use of white space can improve comprehension by almost 20%.

Good use of white space can improve comprehension by almost 20%

A similar concept is the paralysis of choice, which suggests that the more options you give users the longer it takes them to make a decision. They’ll feel hesitant and perhaps not act at all, out of fear of making the “wrong” choice. Try to avoid having too many call-to-actions, links, forms and multiple aspects on one page, which demand user input. Prioritise exactly what it is that you want to gain for your business from each specific page and tailor its composition accordingly.

Adding Persuasion Triggers

Design plays an important role in boosting conversion rates. A large part of this is simply making it easy for customers to find and get what they want; great website navigation, a seamless page layout, and an easy checkout process are essential. Elements such as font, typography, colours and images have the power to heavily influence a visitor’s mood, attitude and perception of your company. But have you thought about using your site’s design to increase sales?

Online merchants will often frame their high profit products in a specific way to influence the customer’s perception. An example of this is placing an overpriced item next to your best sellers or most profitable products; the presence of the overpriced product makes the others on the page seem like a better deal in comparison. Ecommerce stores may also consider including an element of scarcity, such as adding “Limited Stock” tags to items.

Focus on customer experience and your company will stand out for all the right reasons

By understanding your visitor’s motivations and anticipating their response, you can ensure that your website meets their needs in the most efficient way possible. The bottom line is that at every step of the design process, it’s important to put yourself in your user’s shoes and have their expectations at the heart every decision. Focus on customer experience, and your company will stand out for all the right reasons in a digital landscape where businesses are vying for attention.

Mark Warman - Founder & Digital Consultant Administrator

With a background in design, technology and user experience, I help businesses adapt. Adapt to the changing needs and expectations of their digital audiences.