Psychology Applied to Web Design

psychology web designWhile studying psychology is not any quick or easy task, learning a few basic fundamentals can go a long way when it comes to web design. If you take the time to think about what your visitors want and how best to help them get it then the rest follows suit quite quickly. Most of the concepts relevant to web design are fairly straight forward, so here’s a few tips to help ease you into applying psychology to your next website.

Can You Have Too Many Options?

In a study carried out by a Sheeya Iyengar, Graduate of Columbia University, it’s been shown that choice is actually demotivating. She came to this conclusion with her ‘Jam Study’ in which she set up a display selling jam, but alternating between offering 24 flavors and 6 flavors. It was shown that when presented with many options, people often just choose to do nothing rather than weigh up the options. This is said to be the human brains ‘Safety choice’.

This can be easily incorporated into web design by reducing the amount of places to click. Having too many calls-to-action and clutter can be compared to the 24 flavors of jam. Having fewer but more concise and focused options makes the decision require less thought; this way they’re much more likely to pick something, rather than do nothing.

Does Length Matter?

In a study carried out by in 2009, it was discovered that video length determines whether or not a user will continue watching or not. “Even though viewers were exposed to the same exact content, the drop-off rate of the 90-second video was much higher. By the end of the 30-second video there were about double the number of viewers than at the same point in the 90-second video.”

This can easily be applied to all aspects of web design, not just embedded videos. If you see an incredibly long web page or a wall of text, it instantly puts you off from attempting to read it. Many users prefer to skim read articles so providing informative headings for each section can help improve readability. Be sure to keep things focused in the most understandable way and avoid using longer words if there’s a simpler way to say it.

What about E-Commerce?

It takes a little explaining, but it’s quite possible to apply psychology to E-Commerce in many ways. Specifically focusing on price, we can take a look at a study in William Pundstone’s book “Priceless” which experiments with how students choose beers.

The first experiment gave students a choice of two beers including a bargain beer and a premium beer priced at $1.80 and $2.60 respectively. In this situation, the students preferred the premium beer at a two to one ratio.

In the second experiment a bargain ‘decoy’ beer that was cheapest at $1.60 was included with the other two. No one chose the decoy beer but the number choosing the bargain beer jumped by 14%.

In the final experiment a premium ‘decoy’ beer was introduced and students were asked to choose between the bargain ($1.80), premium ($2.60) and premium ‘decoy’ ($3.40) beers which resulted in 90% choosing the premium beer and no one choosing the bargain beer.

When questioned about their decisions, the students said they chose the middle option as a ‘safe’ compromise between the cheapest potentially worst beer and the expensive beer that’s likely a rip-off price.

Reading Patterns

People tend to read in a ‘Z’ pattern on websites, starting at the top left and ending in the bottom right. It makes sense to have your most important content positioned with this in mind. There’s even a study by Mary C. Dyson that goes in depth enough to determine that readers prefer to read smaller width lines of text, even though they read longer widths faster and easier. This is due to shorter liners appearing more inviting. This study can be acted upon by tactically placing your images. If you right-align an image at the top of an article, then it shortens the first few lines; making it more inviting at the start. Once the reader gets passed these first few lines next to the image, longer lines appear after it and become easier and faster to read, it’s just about getting them past the initial part.

About the author:
Andy Morley is an author and experienced web designer, currently working for an award-winning design agency based in Nottingham. Andy specializes in SEO and Ecommerce, follow Andy on Google+.

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