Evocative Design: The Power of Emotion

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We are all driven by emotion; this article in Psychology Today gives us an excellent idea of the extent to which emotions influence our buying decisions. People whose brains have experienced some sort of damages in the part that generates emotions find it very difficult, if not impossible, to make decisions. While we may believe that all our choices are rational, this is often not true. And all of us have experienced “loss of control”; in such cases, very rarely is our rational self able to impose its will on our emotional side.

The power of emotion should never be underestimated. While marketing their products, companies don't just talk about a product's specifications, they create a story. A story designed to make the user want to buy the product. Have you ever seen a toothpaste ad showing yellowing teeth as the end result? That is because yellow teeth do not make a consumer happy, pearly white teeth do. Consumers buy the happiness that they feel, not the toothpaste. Similarly, advertisements for different cell phone plans companies might emphasize the lost cost connection you can make to loved ones who live far away. 

Just like conventional advertising, websites should also be designed to bring forth emotions in their users. Whether your business is a B2B or a B2C, emotions play a very important role, as this article highlights. But it is important that the right kind of emotions are evoked. Inciting a positive emotion will make a user remember your site and probably get back to you; incite a negative one or even a neutral one and you will lose your user forever.

How Not to Design

This is the easy part - your users should not feel bored or frustrated. Give them a site that is either difficult to navigate, too cluttered, lacking in relevant content, or with ads taking up too much space, you have already lost. The first part of designing is always the site's structure and content; getting them right is half the battle.

Designing to Incite Emotion

What are the keys to a good design?

  • Know your product and know your target audience. You cannot please everybody, and if you try, you will please nobody. What is your product and who is it aimed at? You should also know why your customers will use the website and how they will do it; put yourself in their shoes. Irrespective of how you design your website, you cannot sell a luxury item to someone who cannot afford it.
  • Tell a story. As already mentioned, consumers don't just buy a product, they buy the story that goes along with it. A story that they can be a part of and that can generate positive emotions in them. However, you have to be very careful while telling the story. Look at every aspect of it and think of all the emotions that it could possibly generate. Knowing how, where and when your product can be used is very important to telling the right story. It is also important that your story spreads the message that you want to communicate.
  • Minimal. This does not mean you give your users just blank pages; add everything you feel is needed, but do not clutter your site. Here are some good examples.
  • Have an interactive design. People like to have fun, enable them to do so by making your website interactive, like this Google doodle or some of these sites.
  • Beware of designs that can seem racist, sexist, etc. Even though it is technically part of telling a story, this deserves its own bullet point. There are very few things that can adversely affect your company more than being seen as racist or sexist. This is a good example of what not to do. Make sure your images capture the diversity of your company and your target. You never want users to feel excluded when they visit your site. 
  • Use parallax scrolling. While traveling on a road, you will notice that objects that are nearer to you appear to move faster than objects that are further away. This is due to parallax. A similar effect can be created on websites for visual appeal, like in this example.
  • Add personality. One of the best ways to incite emotions is by adding personality to your brand. Giving your brand a personality, through a mascot, for instance, helps you to better communicate your story to the user.

You can also use other components, like animation and infinite scrolling, while designing your site. Displaying your website in shades of just one color and using high resolution portraits can also help to invoke a sentiment in the user.

What is a Good Design?

The purpose of your website is to increase your customer base. But the modern internet user has very little attention span. So, your design should be able to spread your message very quickly; in other words, first impressions are very important. Consider the video ads on YouTube; users are allowed to skip ads after 5 seconds. On YouTube, five seconds is all the time that you get to hold on to your viewer. Your website is very similar.

Once you have the attention of the user, your website must fulfill its purpose. Sticking with the video ad theme, if a 3 minute ad manages to capture the user's attention in the first five seconds, it still has to hold the user's attention for the next 175. If your website user finds it not worth the time to look through your website, even if you provide a great first impression, you lose. If your website's message is contrary to its appearance, you lose. While good website design helps, it is equally important for the website to fulfill its purpose.

To conclude, emotions are powerful and play just as important a role as your product itself in attracting users to your website. A well-designed website invokes a positive emotion in its user at first glance, but that alone is not sufficient. The website must also not invoke a negative or non-positive emotion at any time and must provide content that the user seeks. Nothing incites anger, frustration, or boredom in a user like websites that are hard-to-use, difficult to navigate and have irrelevant content. A good website is not one that just looks good, but also one that provides the goods. 

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