If you want to make an effective, high-performing website, you better be a really good... Psychologist? Okay well you don't have to be a psychologist at all really, but there are a multiple instances where having a basic knowledge of psychology will help you develop a better, more efficient website for your users. It's sort of built into the foundations of other web design principles. Three examples of this are with User Experience, Calls To Action, and Search Engine Optimization.
Psychology With User Experience (UX)
User experience (UX) design is a field that is concerned with the design of products and systems like websites that are both usable and enjoyable for the people who use them. Psychology plays a crucial role in UX design because it helps web designers understand how people think, act, and feel when they browse a website.
With psychology, web designers can gain insight into how people process information, make decisions, and form opinions about the things they use. This knowledge can then be used to design a website that is intuitive and easy to use, which can improve the overall user experience.
Some examples of this:
A web designer might use psychological principles to determine the best way to organize the information on a website. Maybe it would be a better experience for your target audience to break up large quantities of text with more photographs. Maybe your content is too spread out and users would find themselves reading your content out of it's intended order.
It may give insight to how unique and creative you can be with your website without making it counter-productive for some people to naturally browse your site comfortably. Could you take two of your smaller pages and combine them to prevent the user from having to click too much, perhaps?
By understanding how people think and behave when visiting a website, web designers can create designs that are more effective and enjoyable for the people who use them.
Psychology with Calls To Action (CTA)
A website's call to action (CTA) is a button, link, or other element that encourages visitors to take a specific action, such as signing up for a newsletter or making a purchase. Psychology plays a role in the design of a website's CTA by helping to understand how people make decisions and take action.
It is important to first understand that each website serves some kind of purpose. Even if a website's purpose is just to display information, the performance of that website is then measured on it's ability to get that information to the user in the most effective possible way. A website's call to action usually based on the most important purpose of a website at that time.
By applying psychological principles, web designers can design CTAs that are more effective at encouraging visitors to take that most desired action as opposed to another less desired action. Adidas for example, does not really have any vested interest in you finding or viewing their "about" page. They want to sell you their products.
Look at the picture below. The first thing I noticed was the small grouping of text and the "Shop Now" button in the middle of the page. This is intentional! Getting you to their store to spend money is their primary call to action! They have a powerful photo that takes up the entire screen but also has a large amount of empty space on the left. That's the perfect spot to put a call to action because anything in that empty space will demand more attention. It's also aligned to the middle of the screen vertically, where your eyes will naturally be. The next thing I noticed was the blue banner of a different color that the primary navigation bar. Guess why they did that? Yep, another call to action leading you right to their store. Now go to their store and buy their stuff already!
(Adidas was selected as a random example for this article. I have no affiliation.)
A web designer might make use of the principle of social proof, which states that people are more likely to take an action if they see others doing the same, to design a CTA that includes customer testimonials or reviews.
Additionally, psychology can be used to understand what motivates people to take action, and to design CTAs that align with those motivations. The principle of scarcity, which states that people are more likely to take action if they believe that an opportunity is limited, can be used to design a CTA that includes a limited-time offer or a countdown timer.
Overall, by applying psychological principles to the design of a website's CTA, web designers can create more effective and persuasive calls to action that are more likely to encourage visitors to take the desired action.
Psychology with Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the practice of improving the ranking of a website or web page in search engine results. Psychology plays a role in SEO by helping to understand how people use search engines and what they are looking for when they perform a search.
Lets say there's at least two psychological aspects to consider for every search. First is the user's goal. Second is the user's expectations.
First lets understand the goal. Sometimes we may search something like "restaurants near me." Why do we do this? Because we want to go to a laundromat? No. That's obvious. Let's do a deep dive with psychology and gather all of the information about those three generic words.
Everyone eats food.
This person is thinking about eating food.
They may be hungry right now or planning ahead.
They may be looking for inspiration or to find something that meets other criteria.
They already made the decision that they want to physically go to or order from a restaurant instead of cooking.
Near me implies they don't want to travel far or want to experience something locally. Maybe they like the neighborhood.
Maybe they're choosing locally because they won't have much time to eat.
If the neighborhood has a known theme or feel to it, maybe they want a restaurant that reflects the environment they're currently in.
There's countless inferences from even a generic three-word search that can be analyzed severely with psychology. A good web designer will take advantage of all of these things and build a website and SEO strategy to appeal to it.
The psychological principle of primacy states that people are more likely to remember information that they encounter first, so an web designer might use this principle to ensure that the most important keywords and phrases appear at the beginning of a page's title and meta description.
Additionally and perhaps more importantly, psychology can be used to understand what motivates people to click on a particular search result. If they used the aforementioned principle of scarcity to include a page title that has a limited offer, someone might click that one even if there may be a result above it.
Overall, by applying psychological principles to the practice of SEO, web designers can improve the ranking of a website in search engine results and increase the likelihood that people will click on the search result and visit the website.
For the business owner with no web design experience trying to build your own website, this may seem like a level of depth that's out of your reach. For web designers, these are important principles to understand. Most likely through your training or experience in UX, CTAs, & SEO, you've thought about this information without processing that its predominantly psychology based. Diving deeper into the psychological aspects of these web design principles may help you better grasp concepts and implement more effective strategies when building a website.
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