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Should web developers study psychology?

Posted on October 12, 2016

 

An understanding of psychology could help web developers create more effective websites.

Ever since the 1950s, advertising agencies have utilised the findings of psychologists to create adverts that sell more products. In a similar way, by studying how humans think and feel, web developers can design websites that positively influence visitors to take action, whether that be to sign up for a newsletter, purchase a product or write a comment.

Trust

People do not want to have a relationship with those they do not trust. This is why it is vital for a website to communicate trustworthiness to those using it. There are many online scams and unfulfilled promises circulating around the internet, and these erode people’s ability to trust website content. We’ve gone into some detail about scams here.

There are basic “trust signals” that a website needs. This starts with full contact information being easily available. A company should not be seen as a faceless corporation if it expects to promote trust. People buy from people, so the site should be managed by people who are easily contactable. An ‘about’ page should contain a human story. If it is a family-run business, then a photo of the smiling family provides reassurance, especially if the family dog is included! Photos of the main employees also add trust.

The top menu needs to clearly indicate the content of the website and each page heading should let the reader know what the page is about. Visitors need to trust that the menu and headings are accurate reflections of the content. This is also important for Google, but that’s because Google wants what’s important for people. It’s not complicated really.

Testimonials from satisfied customers can also help establish trustworthiness.

Colours

Many books have been written on the psychology of colour. Colour perception is affected by personal experience, so it is hard to be too specific when it comes to applying colour psychology to website design.

Gender plays a role. Research has found that men generally prefer bolder colours and women prefer softer colours. If a company’s products are aimed at a particular gender then this can affect the colours used in a website.

Colours can communicate feelings. Psychologist Jennifer Aaker has written a paper called “Dimensions of Brand Psychology” that identifies five brand personality factors that can be associated with colours: sincerity, excitement, competence, sophistication and ruggedness.

Memory and recall

A website should encourage the process of memory and recall. When someone is considering a purchase, you want your website to be the first one that they remember. One of the major factors to build memory is the logo. A logo needs to be distinctive and striking, as well as memorable. When you say the word ‘hamburger’, often what comes to mind is the yellow McDonald’s arch logo. Equally, when you see the famous arch, you can ‘taste’ the burger. This demonstrates the power of a logo.

The more times a logo is seen, the easier it is to for a brand to be recalled. This means that the logo needs to be in a prominent position on every page, and even appear more than once on some pages.

There is much more to learn

It’s fascinating to study what drives and motivates people, especially when it comes to making buying decisions, and this article has only scratched the surface.

Understanding how brains operate could be the key to developing a successful website that attracts visitors, encouraging them to take action that leads to them becoming paying customers.

Darren Jamieson

Technical Director at Engage Web
Darren is Technical Director at Engage Web, as well as being a co-founder of the company. He takes a hands-on approach to SEO and web design, helped by more than 15 years’ experience in these fields.

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