When the internet first started, designers focused mainly on whether or not a website was efficient and capable. As the web became the new frontier for shopping, communicating, and researching, it is now a necessary to make the internet appealing to people on a deeper level.
Websites have to offer more than simply a product or a paragraph; they have to make the user experience special. Contrary to previous beliefs, there are very simple ways to make an emotional website so that the user experience is not completely impersonal and mundane.
A Solid Design Foundation
Whether you are trying to create an emotional design or not, it is important to have a solid website design foundation to start building upon. This homework can make the difference between a good design and a bad one. There are three main things that should be considered before any type of designing takes place.
Users: Every web designer needs to understand the type of clientele that will be visiting the website. Research the general demographics of various websites so that you can draw a clear picture of what type of people will be using your website, what is important to them, and what they hope to accomplish on the site. When this knowledge is applied correctly, you will have a better idea of how to meet the needs of your targeted users. Designing without a target audience can make it very difficult to create a pleasurable and functional site.
Internal Design Goals: While the website’s targeted traffic is important, a web designer needs to figure out what he or she wants to accomplish. You want to make sure that you communicate the image you are aiming for and that you are able to influence the perception other people have of your work.
With this clearly in your mind, the actions taken in the future will be consistent with your visions and values. Being consistent makes it easy for clients to see you as reliable. Understanding yourself also makes it easier for business relationships to be built with others.
Website Use: How is the website going to be used? Understanding why someone may be visiting a particular website will allow you to predict possible problems that could arise. Web designers can take this information in order to see the website through a visitor’s eyes. This will result in a website that is simple to navigate and will ensure that communication between you and your clients is smoother and more effective.
Three Levels of Emotional Designs
Visual design can be broken down into three separate levels. All of these levels will ultimately effect a person’s perception of the website in question. When design is applied correctly to the way a person’s brain functions, a web designer can build a website that is effective, memorable, appealing, and pleasurable.
Subconscious Level: The first level of visual design is also known as the visceral level. It is a subconscious process where the brain responds to emotional signals produced from the interpretation of the immediate event or current environment. This reaction is a learned process which means that past events, culture, and personality can have a direct impact on how one interprets particular signals. The emotional impact on the person is immediate.
This means that first impressions are very, very important. If a visitor looks at a website and immediately gets a negative feeling, they are very unlikely to continue browsing the site. The goal of any website designer should be to create something that has an immediate and positive impact on the viewer. Whether you arouse curiosity, cause a smile, or make a person simply feel good, this initial reaction is crucial to the rest of the website being positively received.
Behavioral Level: Essentially, this level is about a person’s physical experiences. In other words, it is not enough for a website to be visually appealing; it must be able to fulfill some sort of need. Every part of the design should be usable, understandable, and meaningful in some way, shape, or form. Successfully pleasing the behavioral level goes back to understanding the possible needs of your users. People do not like being frustrated or feeling lost. If parts of the website cause these emotions, it may be necessary to rethink some aspects of the design.
Level of Reflection: Reflection represents a person’s conscious ability to perform “higher-thinking.” The reflective level is when people interpret events, feelings, etc. It is this level of thinking that allows us to thoroughly reason through situations and come to rational decisions. In time, this thought process can and will overrule the emotional and automated behaviors that may rule our actions and thoughts. It is this level that allows visitors to get an overall impression of what they have just viewed. All aspects of the website will be taken into consideration such as product meaning and cultural aspects. The total experience will determine whether or not a person thinks the website is worth remembering, visiting again, or sharing with others.
Give Your Designs Emotion
The key to a good emotional design is incorporating all three levels into the work. It is also important to note that while all three levels should be addressed, they do not need to be weighted equally in the design process.
Even though people have a tendency to interpret things differently, there are ways to ensure that a design is overall emotionally appealing. Some common ways to add appeal to a design is through the use of shapes, pictures, and colors. There are a number of other elements to keep in mind.
Recognition: People are pack animals. We like the company of others and strive to form some sort of emotional bond with our human counterparts. Recognition can work wonders for any design because it makes people connect to the message of the site. Putting in an issue that the targeted client will understand or having a person’s image on the site is an instant attention grabber. This allows people to make an effort to better understand what is on the website. If your website gives off a human presence, the customers will feel much more comfortable with the entire experience. This is necessary in an environment where anonymity is rampant.
Tone: Tone of voice can be difficult to master through text and website design (unless you are using a video of course). Think about the information you are trying to get across and the best way to do just that. For example, telling a funny story about a serious topic might make it hard for people to truly take anything else you say seriously. The message of the website should not be muddled by conflicting tones, especially because this can seriously affect the communication relationship between your site and the user.
Humor: There is a reason why speech givers try to break the ice with a joke. Laughing makes people feel at ease and forges the way for effective communication. The hard part about incorporating humor into website design is that a sense of humor can vary greatly from person to person. The foundations of design come into play again when you are trying to decide what kind of humor to include on your website. Understanding the type of people coming to the site is a good way to at least get a general idea of what may or may not be appropriate. The goal is to make people laugh and smile while keeping the number of people offended to a minimum. Remember that whatever goes on your site will affect your image in the eyes of others.
Engagement: Websites can be designed perfectly and still have problems getting visitors to perform the desired actions. One reason for this is based on the fact that people want to be entertained and amused throughout the online experience. This doesn’t mean that the site should be full of games, but there needs to be some way for the users to become engaged in the website. It could be a game, a video, or simply personalized content. As long as it is possible for the visitor to interact in some sort of way, many will be happy.
There are many aspects to keep in mind when it comes to creating a successful, emotional website. Taking the time to think, research, and plan around the emotional connection with our users will lead to more positive experiences. Not only will people be more likely to return to the site in the future, but your reputation will improve as people have a positive response to your work. Remember that users will interpret their reactions to appearance and usability when coming up with an overall personal satisfaction level with your website.