Improve UX by Understanding What Compels Human Behavior


When assessing the effectiveness of a website’s design, we often look at numbers. After all, numbers don’t lie. We track bounce rates, engagement rates, or spikes or dips in organic traffic, and then derive conclusions based on observable trends.

However, designers tend to overlook one crucial element in favor of logic, statistics, and everything our rational mind can cook up. It is the one thing that user experience designer Aaron Walter described as “the lingua franca of humanity”: Emotions.

Why Emotional Websites Work

Consider how cigarette packs are designed with graphic images of diseases caused by smoking; how a humorous commercial that went viral on social media increases awareness of a cause; or how sex sells in pop songs.

The same concept applies to web design.

Emotional web design deliberately affects the feelings of site visitors through the colors, fonts, call-to-action buttons, even down to the last image and words used in the body text.

Appealing to your users’ emotions work because it:

  • Shows that there is a human being behind the website. Visitors would feel that they are not talking to machines; rather, human beings they can relate to and actually converse with.
  • Puts human beings front and center. A website designed for emotions are more human-centric, as opposed to a website made for search engines algorithms or any other site metric. It goes back to the core of UX – that is, to build a website to ultimately benefit the user.
  • Helps customers be reminded of you. When done right, an emotional web design leaves a longer lasting imprint in the memories of visitors. A memorable image that, for instance, they were able to emotionally connect with would make them stay on your website more. The more time they spend on your site, the more they lose interest in competitors.
  • Influences decision making. Some of the most powerful advertisements appeal to emotions. They work because they tap into the desire or fear of a customer that would ultimately make them decide to buy. Numerous studies have been conducted establishing how emotions affect buying behavior, be it online or offline.
  • Establishes relationships with customers. Connecting with customers is the Holy Grail of marketing campaigns, as this is the first step towards building a relationship and ultimately forming trust in a brand. The key to connecting is knowing which emotion a website needs to trigger and how to execute it properly.

Understanding what compels human behavior and translating that abstract idea into specific elements of a website will vastly improve user engagement.

As UX designers, emotion-based websites means giving visitors more impetus to follow the journey you have laid out for them – whether it is to sign up for a newsletter, to become more aware of a brand, or to purchase a product or service.

Fundamental Elements Of An Emotion-based Website

Much like building any edifice, creating an emotionally-infused website requires a strong foundation. These are the elements to take note of:

Know Your Audience

While designing with metrics in consideration are important, numbers are not the crux of emotional websites. Simply put, user experience is about the user, not the algorithm. Think of them as human beings, not as a numbers on the site visitor counter.

To do that, find out information about general details like age, sex, country, and line of work to get a clear image of who the website is for.

Connecting on an emotional level, however, entails more than demographics. Find out who they are. What are their goals? How will they interact with your website? What are the things that they consider important? What problems do they have?

It’s vital to get to know your audience and ultimately what they feel, in order to deliver the site’s message properly. A service page, for instance, needs to communicate the feeling that you understand and are able to provide solutions to the customers’ problems.

Trigger the Right Emotion

Set your goals at the beginning. What would you like your users to feel upon visiting your website?

One of the common mistakes of designers is to target multiple emotions within the website. The trick here is to focus on just one emotion.

Is it joy, surprise, pleasure, anticipation, calm? Pick one and work your way towards achieving that one emotion, from your images, to colors, to the text, and overall tone of the website.

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Use The Right Image

Visual content continues to be one of the most powerful tools in online marketing. In fact, colored visuals would compel your reader to read your content by as much as 80%.

However, if you wish to emotionally connect with your audience, you can’t use randomly Googled photos or stock images. The key here is to provide relevant and relatable photos to engage site users. Relevant images paired with content gets 94% more views than content without any relevant images.

Keep in mind that if the images you chose do not complement your message, it will cause confusion to your users which could then result in your losing credibility.

Use Appropriate Color Combinations

Color psychology looks at how different colors sway human behavior. It works powerfully on a subconscious level that a change in hue can impact the way your website is perceived, be it positively or negatively.

Which colors you choose depends largely on the emotion you want to evoke. For example, blue and green are safe, go-to colors when designing websites. However, different shades would connote different emotions.

Light and dark blue are calming colors, but go to darker shades of blue and you will evoke emotions of security and strength. Red signifies passion, green for health and wealth, black for formality, purple for elegance and femininity. Men and women would also differ in their color preference.

Always keep your target audience in mind-who they are, what they want, what are their goals-so you can pick the colors that would lead them to conversions.

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Write Compelling Words

Writing is more than just stringing together words and phrases that sound edgy or is a close synonym of the emotion that you want to evoke.

There is an art and a science involved in writing compelling copy, especially for websites that want to connect with emotions. The tagline or header title, for instance, can immediately set the entire personality of the website.

Moreover, it’s important to use the proper tone of voice. Should you be professional? Should you be empathetic? Or is your target audience receptive to witty and funny lines?

When creating a website that appeals to emotions, you need to make sure that every element is intentional. Words, images, colors-these should all blend into one coherent design that would ultimately evoke the right kind of emotion to your target audience.

At the end of the day, a good emotion-infused website grabs the user’s attention, guides them into interacting with your website, is visually appealing, and leaves a long-lasting imprint on their memories.

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