The human brain is a complex thing. It controls how we interact with everything and everyone around us, including the internet. Every time we are browsing online or typing a document, our brains are at work.
So, why isn’t how the brain works a regular part of our thinking when it comes to web design? Usability makes sure that we take the user into account when designing a website, but there is so much more involved. Even in the simplest ways, understanding how our brains interact with what we see online is vital. Whether we’re talking about images, links, or text, every part of a website interacts with the brain differently. Harnessing this knowledge can not only help us build an online presence perfect for our users, but can help us make the most of online content, advertisements, promotions, and more.
Though there are thousands of things to consider, here are just a few ways that the brain and psychology might effect your website.
Have you ever noticed how a pink shirt might look red until you put it next to a truly red shirt, and then you see it’s not red at all, but in fact, pink? Well, when people see one thing, it effects how they see something else. This works with images, words, numbers, and much more. So, if you are presenting a price to people, you want to present something else first that will make them think that price is great. So, before showing someone a number, show them a higher number first, and then they will think your price is better.
How to apply this: If you have a product that you are trying to promote for $49, show people a higher number first, so $49 seems comparatively low. This number doesn’t even have to be a dollar amount, it could be something like ‘2,000 people have signed up so far’. Any higher number will anchor their thoughts to a higher number.
There is a certain part of the human brain that is dedicated solely to processing human faces that we see. It’s in the visual cortex and helps us to remember faces and process peoples emotions. When we see a human face this part of the brain is activated and excited at the opportunity to decode emotional information, and actually forms an emotional connection. This is even more so when that face is looking directly at you.
How to apply this: You want to evoke emotion every chance you get, so have as many pictures of people, especially people looking directly at the camera, as you can. When your reader forms an emotional connection with the image, they are more likely to form a connection with you and your product.
Everyone in the world has an unconscious fear of losing something. Whether that is losing a loved one, or losing your favourite shoes, or just losing out on the chance to do something. We don’t realize that we are afraid, but when there is a chance that we might lose something, we are more likely to hold onto it. So if you are trying to sell a product or service, make losing that product or service a possibility, and they will be more inclined to buy.
How to apply this: If you are offering a discount on your product, say something like ‘only two days left to get the early bird price’ or ‘limited quantities’. This fear of losing out on the savings will make people act quicker to buy it, rather than waiting and missing out.
When you’re about to buy a product in store, are you likely to read the back of the box and trust what they description says? No. You’re more likely to look online for a review or text a friend to see what they think about the product. Why is this? The description on the back of the box was likely true, but for some reason we trust people we know and those who are like us more than we trust a company or an expert. This is social validation. People trust those they know or can relate to more than they will trust an expert – even though the expert likely has much more knowledge about the subject matter.
How to apply this: If you have a product or service that you would like to provide testimonials or reviews on – have a variety of sources. You can still use some experts, but have some regular people too. Display their age and location along with their review, so every one of your readers or potential clients has a reviewer to relate to and trust.
Reciprocity is the idea that when you give people something, they are more likely to give you something in return because they feel that they owe you. This applies to web design in exactly the same way – if you give your readers or clients something, they are likely to do something in return. What can you give your readers? Information, a free product, a discount. What can they give you? Their readership or their loyalty by signing up for your newsletter or following you on a social channel.
How to apply this: If you are giving a free product or service away, ask for them to signup or follow you after they have received the product. They are more likely to reciprocate now that they ‘owe’ you.
In general, human beings are a very community based species. We have a desire to belong and be part of a group. So, anything you can do on your website to establish a sense of community is a good way to draw people in. One of the simplest ways to do this is with your choice of words. Using nouns rather than verbs create a sense of group identity that your reader or client will want to belong to.
How to apply this: If you want to do something like get subscribers for your newsletter, say “Become a Subscriber” rather than “Subscribe here”. This creates a sense that you already have a group of subscribers, and they will automatically be more inclined to join that community.
Have you ever walked up to a door, and pushed on it when you should have pulled? You stumble and it’s embarrassing, but most of all it’s annoying. Why don’t they just make it obvious whehter you should push or pull? These are visual cues that let you know what action you are supposed to take when interacting with something. Typically push doors have flat panels and pull doors have handles you can grab onto, but a push door with a handle just doesn’t make sense. It’s visual cue is wrong, and it’s annoying. This same principle applies to web design – you want people to know how to interact with your site, and not providing proper visual cues will annoy them and likely chase them off.
How to apply this: Keep your links consistent. If one link is underlined, then all links are underlined. If they change colour when you hover over them, keep it consistent. You don’t want people thinking they can click on something and then it not being clickable.
And those are some of the ways that psychology and the brain can affect how we interact with the websites we are using. Take a a look at your own page as you read through these items and think about how you can apply each one!