Business websites have a reason, a mission. They are there to help you achieve your business goals, not just to look good. They have to be effective.
Psychology is the study of the human mind and its functions. And since the interaction with a website is predominantly a cognitive action, it is a great starting point for finding answers on how can we design the website "brain friendly". What leads to more subscribes, increases sales and invites more people to book online?
Let's start with a fact.
All human beings are 99.9 percent identical in their genetic makeup.
- National Human Genome Research institute
I find that very fascinating.
It is hard to imagine that the person sitting next to you at any time is genetically only 0.1% different from you. Anyone, anywhere.
Since we are so similar, it should be very easy to create the nearly perfect and most effective website every time because we should be thinking, perceiving, acting and reacting very similarly.
Well, it is not. The 0.1% difference creates an amazing diversity. We are very different in personalities, looks, talents, behaviour and feelings.
Our brains, however, work in very similar ways. So why not take advantage of some psychological principles when designing a website? Why not looking into what attracts the human brain, how it processes a website and what helps to get results?
Here are 5 principles based on psychological research.
1 Stand out
In a world of similarities, distinct differences grab our attention. The brain focuses immediately on what stands out. It is excellent at spotting and processing contrasts in the environment. This helps us to survive.
If you look at the website layout, your vision is automatically drawn to the yellow rectangle on the bottom. The bright yellow stands out on the predominantly grey page.
Ideally that would be your call to action (CTA) button. The CTA could be "learn more", "shop now", "book now" or "subscribe".
After you identified the desired user action (online bookings, purchases, email subscriptions), make that button stand out so that the brain focuses on that straight away.
- Use colour to stand out. Red buttons for example attract visitors more than green ones.
- Position the CTA button high on the page so that users can see it right away.
- Have arrows leading the eyes to the CTA button.
- Add an image with a person looking at the CTA button.
2 Simple over complicated
Make it easy for the brain by limiting details and distractions. We prefer simple to complex. It makes us feel good.
People are happier and more receptive towards familiar and easily understandable situations in which they feel safer, more confident and at ease.
Take Google as an example.
The simplicity of Google's homepage is remarkable. All we see is the logo and the search bar with two buttons underneath. There is no clutter, no conflicting CTAs nor lots of information to process. Your brain knows instantly where to look and what to do: search.
Focus on what you would like to achieve with your website: Is it to increase online bookings or growing your email list? Selling products? Make it easy for the human brain: Set your goal and make the call to action the obvious centre of the page.
- I love using lots of white or negative space. It opens room for imagination, thought and processing. It is peaceful and I don't feel pressured to rush into anything. And it makes the important information stand out.
- Try not to overwhelm the user, offer less choice and only selected information on your homepage.
- Stay away from conflicting buttons like placing "book now" and "shop now" next to each other.
- Have a clear message for the user. You might like to ask them a question and in the second line offer a solution followed by the CTA.
- With subscription forms, reduce the number of contact fields. Less fields make people more likely to subscribe.
3 Facial recognition
Trained for millions of years, our brain is very skilled in reading other people's emotions. It helps us to predict reactions and feelings, if there's danger or if we can relax.
When we come across a human face on a website, we will (1) immediately jump to it and (2) assess the emotions showing on the face. None of this is intentional, and we might not even realize that we do it.
A picture of a person showing the emotion relevant to your business makes the user feel understood. Sharing feelings with the user builds trust. They see themselves in the new car or the perfect skin and will more likely interact.
- Use photos of genuinely happy people, even better your customers. Authentic images are better than stock photos as our brain recignises them as inauthentic.
- Emphasise the feeling you want your customers to have when they look at your website. Try to make it real.
- Play with different images, types and expressions and find out what works for your business.
4 Instant gratification
Nobody likes to wait. When I enter a place and find a long queue, I turn around and leave.
HelpScout reports that experiments with Magnetic Resonance Imagery (MRI) have shown that our brain is extremely active when we think about waiting for something. There is a real power to instant gratification as customers feel that their problems get solved right away.
Amazon advertises instant video after you signed up for their service. After just a few clicks, you can start watching the shows and movies of your choice. Very compelling!
Reward your customers instantly after doing business with you. You are more likely to persuade them to stay in touch.
- Include the words instantly and immediately in your copy. For non-digital goods us the word "quick" and offer quick results and gratification.
- Send an email and remind your customers of the advantages when buying from you.
- Give them specific instructions to show them how you can solve their problem.
5 Give out something for free
You don't need to be three years old to understand the feeling of excitement when getting presents. Everybody loves them!
Take advantage of the principle of reciprocity by offering something of value for free on your homepage.
- Neil Patel
This goes hand in hand with point 4. Give out something for free and provide instant gratification. If you offer something for free, many customers want to reciprocate and are more likely to buy from you.
- Offer something of value to your customers. It could be a free e-book, an video tutorial, sample products or a discount code.
- Free shipping is another popular way to get people to buy from you.
- Make them review a product they bought from you and give them a 10% discount for the next purchase.
What works for your homepage? What have you tried to engage the user more? I am curious to hear from you!
19 Psychological Principles That'll Improve Your Homepage Conversion Rate by Neil Patel
5 Psychological Principles of High Converting Websites by Nate Desmond, Kissmetrics
10 Ways to Convert More Customers using psychology by Gregory Ciotti, HelpScout