For the last 20 years UX designers tried to use psychology and science to make web design more human-centric. I think now the majority of people already know what is neuroscience, however when I was doing a research, I found out that there are not so many materials on the net about it, especially about neuroscience in web design. Actually I was inspired to write this article when I attended EO event this week. Me and our CEO – Evgeny Predein are members there and every time we have very interesting topics to discuss, this time it was about neuroscience in business.
Leading Universities like Stanford, Harvard, etc study neuroscience in web design and move it to the next level, every year they discover something new, do experiments and share their discoveries with the world.
If you type neuroscience course on google, you will see that now a lot of top universities open this kind of courses. Many entrepreneurs invest in opening universities dedicated only to neuroscience. As it is still emerging, don’t lose this opportunity to be better than your competitors by delivering your services or products exactly how the customer wants.
For those who are not sure what is neuroscience, neuroscience is basically a scientific study of the human brain and nervous system. It allows us better understand how our brain works and how it reacts to different stimuli in different environment. Of course marketing people and UX designers were the first to take advantage of these findings and that’s how neuromarketing and neurodesign were born.
In today’s article I would like to focus more on neuroscience in web design. Neurodesign becomes to be a hot topic, if you are interested in it, I recommend you to read Susan’s Weinschenk book: “Neuro Web Design: What Makes Them Click.” It will help you understand how and why your target reacts to things they may not fully realize. User experience is very closely related to marketing, normally both of these departments work on customer experience on the web.
THE IMPORTANCE OF NEUROSCIENCE IN WEB DESIGN
If you look back at the websites of some of the biggest companies over the last 20 years you’ll be see how they have changed. Moreover, normally to stay up to date with all this technology evolution, design trends and Google inventions, you need to update your site on average once a year. Remember the time when you just started using internet, remember the quantity of information on one page? Overloaded with text. Now, UX designers use neuroscience in web design, now websites are highly researched, and well – thought to grab your attention at just the right point, at just the right time to make your life simple, save your time, provide better experience and of course increase conversion rate.
More and more companies and UX designers starting to use advanced neuroscientific and psychological research to turn what used to be an art into a science. Companies like Google, eBay, etc are already integrating neuroscience discoveries into their web design. There’s a science to how we view the web. Whether on desktops or on mobile, whether we’re male or female, young or old, our eyes will be drawn to certain common elements of web design – a combination of contrasts, locations, contours, colors, etc.
Using key principles of neuroscience in web design, will make you better communicate your message in the most effective way possible. Neurodesign is an approach that lets you look at the brain triggers behind good customer experience and use them to help you make better design decisions based on customer behavior and human trends. It can help you identify why an experience is good or bad. It gives you information about how your target receive information, make decisions and make choices.
Neuroscience in web design has shown us that most decision-making is automatic, intuitive and instinctive and is made in the System 1 – “rapid response, fast thinking” part of our brains. After that initial auto response, we then rationalise our decisions in System 2 – “ slow thinking”, the reflective and logical section of the brain. This way of making decisions impacts everything from our choice of partner to our choice of brands, products and companies. For this reason, designers need to create brands that connect with the intuitive and instinctive System 1 decision-making part of the brain, as well as making sense of System 2 – rational part of the brain. What you should know here is that the dominant language of System 1 is visual – around 90%, so intuitive decision-making is visually-based. Purely rational advertising and design is not enough, you need to touch emotional part as well. Doing that, will allow you to better connect with consumers, add value, create loyalty, etc.
NEUROSCIENCE IN WEB DESIGN: KEY TIPS
SUBCONSCIOUS MIND & FIRST IMPRESSION
One of the most important things you need to know about neuroscience in web design is that subconscious mind is more powerful than the conscious mind. It notices things faster and is responsible for the development of emotions and gut feelings. Design your site, working on subconscious signs. Subconscious mind collects information in fractions of a second and makes very quick judgments. If your website design feels right, there is a great possibility that people will trust it, first impression is extremely important, so home page – the first thing your target sees should be more than just good.
Your brain is designed to survive. This is the primary objective of the brain. The first thing the reptilian brain checks is safety. If you feel you are in danger, you will feel like not trying a certain product or service. Make your target feel comfortable and secure about your website.
We behave that way, that when we find ourselves in a familiar environment, our brain relaxes and experience positive emotions. Make sure all elements on your site seem familiar, especially in the positions of important buttons and navigational links. People don’t want to be annoyed by complicated design, where they can’t find what they want to find.
COGNITIVE LOAD REDUCTION
Small fonts are harder to read and can increase the cognitive load. Cluttered sites are harder for the brain to process. Make sure you design your site for minimal cognitive load.
Neuroscience in web design has proven that the reptilian brain pays special attention to actions that must be taken within a time frame. By adding a sense of urgency, you will motivate your tagret’s mind to act quickly and take the action you want them to take. For example things like “only 3 days left” or “only 5 rooms left”, etc work very effectively.
EASINESS TO SCAN
Many people don’t read everything, they scan pages. Design your pages that way, that your web design and your information could be easily scanned. Use bullets, bold, images, icons, photography, to highlight important parts of the page.
Title is more important than the content. Since the decision to trust a site is usually made in seconds, the headline of a page is much more important than the explanation on a page. Of course details are important, but the subconscious mind will probably make its decision before even seeing them. Titles make your interested in reading more about the information you are giving.
Use colors to affect the mood. The subconscious mind notices colors extremely fast. Read about color psychology and choose the colors that make your visitors feel good. The most important thing to know here is the human eye notices contrast. The color of the button won’t matter as much as the way the color differs from your overall design. If most of your site is blue, using a blue call to action button would be a bad choice. Choose a color that creates contrast. The trick here is even though the majority of people say that they prefer green over red, if we are talking about conversion rates, many studies favored red over green. So don’t base your decision on favourite colors of people, base your decision on studies, which color is best in conversions.
EMOTIONS & ASSOCIATIONS
Drive emotions, it is critical to your success! Headlines and images can quickly spark emotions, use them! For example, it is a well known fact that emotional headlines get more shares. If a person feels good while browsing your site, he will associate those feelings with your site and vice versa. You can play with emotions and associations, I guess you have heard about the cup of coffee study, where there were 2 groups of participants and they needed to share emotions about a certain topic, same topic. The result was that people holding a warm cup of coffee had a positive view on the situation and people with cold cup of coffee had a negative one. Work with this kind of things, it is interesting and it works. We are not that rational as we think we are. Our decisions are often driven by unconscious cognitive forces and be aware of them, may help you get better results.
We like to feel control. We like to have options and the ability to make our decisions rather than be directed what to do. Provide an “Undo” option, users frequently click on buttons by mistake and end up removing something important, which leads to panic. Give them an option to go back.
Another experiment that I found very interesting was about choice. You can watch a video here: 6 jars of jams vs 24 jars of jam experiment. The conclusion is that when you have less choice, the conversion rate is higher. Let’s look at it more in details. If we compare an option 1: table with 24 jars of jam with option 2: table with 6 jars of jam, when there are 24 bars of jam, people stop more, but buy less; 60% stop, only 3% buy. As for the table with 6 jars of jam; 40% stop, 30% buy. Even though people always say they prefer to have many options, when you give them this desired number of options, they freeze and at the end they don’t know which one to choose, it annoys them and they leave. Again, sometimes people don’t really know what they want and sometimes they don’t know what is better for them, therefore don’t base your decisions on what your target likes, base your decisions on what they do and how they do it.
Again it is about safety, people trust you more if they see happy customers like them. It is a well known fact, therefore don’t forget to use testimonials from clients or reviews from customers. They are much more valuable than an add with celebrities, because now everyone knows that you paid them, but as for conversions they trust normal people who share their personal experience about the brand or product.
Items that are in the beginning and end of the list are more remembered than items in the middle. The primacy effect states that the items first on the list are recalled more easily, reason for this is that the initial items that are stored have more time to be consolidated into the long term memory. The opposite of this is the recency effect, where items on the bottom are recalled easily, reason for this is that these items are still fresh in the working, short term memory. Note, that short term memory can only hold around seven items. If your navigation includes more than seven links, try to break it up into smaller groups Place the important elements like call to action both at the top and the end of your page. When designing the navigational menu, do not place important section of your website in the middle.
CURRENT KNOWLEDGE & TARGET KNOWLEDGE
Current knowledge is the pre existing knowledge the users come to your site with. Target knowledge is what they need to access your website effectively. Knowledge gap is the difference between current and target knowledge. While planning a layout, you need to keep this gap to a minimum. For example, here are some things that people expect on any website: clicking on the logo leads them back to the homepage, last link on the navigational menu should be contact us, text is aligned left, the links have different color from the text, etc.
Jonathan Gotschall, author of ‘The Storytelling Animal’, explains that humans are addicted to stories and the stories. Stories are used to evoke emotions, which trigger a large part of the brain’s response and to make you customers remember you. It is proven that people remember better information which they read in a storytelling format, rather than bullet points or a normal text. An effective story normally holds reader’s attention for a longer time and produces a deeper level of engagement with the brand. People love stories.
Remember, that over 50% of the brain is devoted to visual processing. Here is an interesting study done by usability expert James Breeze that shows that images of faces can be used to guide people around website. For example, when the baby is facing forward, the viewer’s attention is more strongly directed at the baby’s face. When baby looks to the right towards the headline, reader look towards the same direction like the baby.
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