This article elaborates on some principles which you can use to make your site more user centered. With the availability of shared information on the internet and a lot of tutorials about design, mark-up and programming, learning how to make websites is into reach of many more people than past decade. However, as most design education can emphasis, learning the tools is not enough. One of the key elements of a (strategic) designer is the ability to think out of the perspective of the user. In this article I want to show some principles which focus on the user, and are from the field of neuro webdesign.
Principles of Persuading the user
The relationship with the user comes firstWeinschenk (2008) describes an interesting direction in user centered webdesign, connecting psychology with webdesign. Websites can follow the following three principles of persuasion in their design:
- Emotion: create emotional appealness in a website. The relationship with the user comes first, the function second.
- Logic: elements, spacing and lay-out should follow the laws of logic. Once you start thinking “Were can I find this?” the usability is in danger.
- Instinct: websites should follow automatic human behaviour. An example are auction sites which have a limited time for their offerings, or sites which state ‘their special offer’ is only 1 day left. Instinctively, humans are tended to choose for such offers.
The basic principles of persuasion, emotion and trust:
Additionaly, you can use the following principles in design. You might recognize some of them in the use of adverts, but many of them are also applicable to webdesign.
- If a user has too many choices, he will not choose at all. Following Miller findings that an average short-term memory can hold 7 +/- 2 items, the number of choices someone can make in a website should never exceed this number.
- Social validation: the presence of other humans can influence the decisions of users. Think of a group of humans who is shouting to you to push a button. The change will be a lot bigger. While this is unrelated to webdesign, the use of social-media and the rising influence of website visitors on websites can influence how humans behave on the internet. Top commentors from popular blogs might for example feel the pressure to deliver quality comments each time, as well as blogs have to deliver quality content to their readers and thus are ‘socially pressed’ in some way.
Information tickles the memory, but stories move the heart
- Scarcity lures for attention (similar to the 1 day left example described under instinct).
- Food, sex or danger trigger for action. Especially the former 2 are used a lot. Big change that you ever stared at a very tasty food photograph, feeling even more hungry.
- Human faces have power. Humans are created to be in relationships for each other. Humans seek humans. The presence of faces at a website makes a website more human, and hence more appealing.
- Storytelling. It is one of the oldest forms of communication. And still very powerfull. Only look to the thousands of stories which are told on vimeo’s cinematics. Information tickles the memory, but stories move the heart.
- Commitment: fan blogs of certain stars, gadgets are a good example of the commitment human beings can show. In setting up a blog, commitment to your readers is crucial to get their commitment. Similair in setting up a business or a webdesign. A webdesign which radiates commitment towards it visitors, which has a sence of trust and respect, gets these features back.
Gra-Phics.com, a swedish webdesign company, uses the face of the owner very prominently on their website, acting as a real ‘showcard’ to clients and visitors. In the portfolio of this company, human faces are used consistently and smart (following principle 5).
Whitmans, a restaurant based in New York, cleverly uses food photographs of their own food on their website. I don’t know how you are doing, but after scrolling this site my stomach felt more empty.
How do I start designing a user centered website?
- Read this article :), but also browse for more articles on this content. Knowledge (=applied information) is power!
- Think out from the target audience of the website (but do not forget the client’s wishes!). How would you behave when you were one of them? How would you scroll through the website?
- Think of how the principles mentioned above can enhance the user experience and usability of the website. Don’t overdo, but focus on 2 or 3 principles on which you want to give most attention. Translate these into concepts (which can be templates made in Photoshop or adjusted website templates) and try to involve someone from the target audience in the selecting of the concept.
- Work the selected concept further out and evaluate with some users from the target audience again.
Further reading & browsing
- Cover image adapted from Untitled by Astrogony on Flickr.
- Miller, G. A. (1956). The magical number seven, plus or minus two: Some limits on our capacity for processing information. Psychological Review 63 (2): 81–97
- Katz-Haas, R. (1998). Ten Guidelines for User-Centered Web Design. Usability Interface, 5 (1)
- Weinschenk, S.M. (2008). Neuro Webdesign: What makes them click? Berkely: Peachpit Press
- What makes them click website