How design influences us

Florian Scholz

Florian Scholz

Webdesigner at freshcells.

In the modern world, we get influenced by apps and websites all the time. Big companies use clever marketing to lead us through our daily life, without us even noticing. A big part of this is achieved through design.

 

Good design should not only look appealing but also lead the user in a certain direction. In this article, we will explore some of the most common psychological tricks and explain them using real life examples.

Getting users interested

Before we even start thinking about how users will use our website, there must be someone to visit it, in the first place. But how do we get people interested in our website?

Of course, it depends on what kind of website you’re making and how good your SEO works. But there are some design principles to follow:

 
1. Clear topic

Make clear what your website is about and for whom it’s made.

2. Important information first

Make users quickly find what they’re looking for.

3. Don’t show everything immediately

Keep users hooked by providing little teasers to similar topics but don’t lose them by overdoing it.

4. Use catching elements

Use e.g. images or animations to lead a user’s attention to important parts of the site.

5. Reward the user

Offer small rewards to the user (e.g. free trial / -ebook) to make them want to give you something in return

6. CTA – Call To Action

Use this opportunity to ask the user to do something (e.g. “BUY NOW” on a button).

 

After we’ve got our user’s attention, it’s time to go into designing their further experience.

Keep it intuitive

To make your user’s experience effortless, you probably want your site to be as easy to navigate as possible. To achieve that goal, there are different laws and principles for UI/UX design that were defined to predict and understand human behaviour. The following is a combination of Jakob’s law and Hick’s law.

 

Jacob’s Law

Jakob Neilsen once stated that “Your users prefer your website to work in the same way as other websites”. Meaning that users want to be able to navigate your website intuitively without having to learn how it works first.

To illustrate this, here is an example of our website, which is designed to be intuitively to navigate:

Graphic freshcells.de
freshcells.de ®

Whereas this website tries to go the exact opposite way by making you scroll horizontally instead of vertically:

jesperlandberg.dev

Whether you should follow those rules or not, depends on the context. For instance, if you’re building an online shop, you probably want it to be easy to navigate so the user gets to click the “purchase” button quickly.

However, if you’re building your online portfolio to show how creative you are, you can of course break the rules and get creative.

 

Hick’s Law

And then there is Hick’s law: “The time it takes to make a decision increases as the number of alternatives increases”. In design context it means that, the more elements your site has, the longer it will take the user to do something.

As humans, we always want to choose the right option. If there are too many options, we feel overwhelmed and even tend to leave.

To illustrate this, here is an example of how not to do it:

Crowded Website Example
lingscars.com

As you might tell, this website has far too many distracting objects and you don’t really know where to look.

So don’t overload your website; Instead use whitespace, sections / categories and on important elements eye catchers, to keep everything clean and give a visual flow to the site. Sometimes, less is just more after all.

Stay unique

This part might seem to contradict the previous one, however, although it is important to be consistent with others you should also give a personal touch to your site. When someone visits it, you only have 10 to 20 seconds to catch their attention.

To make sure that they also stay on your site, there should be a certain charm to it. Here are some ideas on how to create it:

Colors

Colors are one of the first stimuli that a human recognizes. There are certain colors that have certain effects on the human mind. Here is a little overview:

Color Phsychology Wheel
uxbert.com

Choosing the right colors for your design is essential to make the right impression on your users.

In our case, we chose blue as our primary color because it gives our brand a technological and serious but also soothing and trustworthy feeling.

freshcells logo
freshcells Logo ®

Covering all the aspects of color theory would be too much for this article but may be content for a future one.

Create something memorable

We as humans tend to remember things that impressed us. So, especially if you have a widely diversified target audience, you might want to get users stunned.

A website which does quite a good job on that is Letter:

letter.co

Using parallax effects and objects that move while scrolling is nothing new, but if used in the right way it can make for amazing results.

Of course, these are not the only ways to achieve stunning effects. You can also use images, videos, illustrations, small games, neat animations, 3D objects, or even simple text to create a memorable experience. It’s all just about the right idea.

Micro interactions / -animations

Ever clicked on a search-icon which triggered a little animation, and you thought “Oh, that was a nice transition”? Well, that was a micro-interaction.

If used properly, micro-interactions can really improve a user’s experience. Because they don’t only look nice but can also lead the eye or highlight a certain element of your site.

Here is an example of a little playful micro-interactions on our website:

Micro animations example
freshcells.de ®

I could keep playing with these tiles all day! But since we don’t have that time, let’s move on to the next section.

Test your Design

Even the greatest designs by the best professionals aren’t perfect right away. Good design needs to be flexible and develop over time. To ensure that it goes in the right direction, it needs to be tested.

The best audience to test your website is of course the ones who are going to use it later on. So, if possible you should try presenting it to potential users. Alternatively, your co-workers or friends could do the job as well. This so-called “family and friends testing” is an easy win with much less effort than a properly planned user test.

 

Important for designers

One thing to avoid when working on a project is to get victim of the ikea effect. It states that “The more time you spend on your design, the more love you will take for your design. So it would be difficult for you to receive feedback and change your design.”

To avoid this, sharing your work with other designers / team members in an early state is essential. The earlier you give others access to your work, the more feedback you get over time, and the better your design can develop.

Conclusion

So what have we learned today?

First of all it’s really important to catch our user’s attention. So our design has to be visually attractive. We can achieve this by choosing the right colors, using catching images and other design elements that spark our user’s interest.

But the inner values matter as well. So next we need to bound the user to our site by providing valuable information. It’s important to set a clear topic and don’t overload the site with information so the user gets an overview of what they can expect.

Since our relationship can’t work without rules though, there are several laws which help us to provide our users the best possible experience. Jacob’s law states that you should keep your experience intuitive. And Hick’s law says that you should not overload your site with useless elements but instead keep it clean and simple.

And last but not least, you should not fall too much in love with your design (ikea effect) but instead get feedback early on so it can grow and develop in the right way.

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