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Get your customers in the mood

The Aesthetic Usability Effect - it's design magic!

Ever wondered why Apple gets so much attention and admiration when other computers have higher specs and performance records?

Or why two cars that both go from A-B in the exact same time can have completely different stigmas attached to them?

Well, it's all due to the Aesthetic Usability Effect!

It's not always down to the performance, quality or even functionality of a product or design that defines its success. The Aesthetic-Usability Effect is the phenomenon that describes how time and time again users perceive more aesthetically pleasing designs to be easier to use than less aesthetically pleasing designs. What this means is that users are more sympathetic to faults or failures if a design is aesthetically pleasing, leading them to believe that the better looking option is the better option entirely.

People are much more productive when they are in a positive mind set. We can complete tasks faster, and we can achieve results more effectively. Just think how you would perform on a test if you were in a foul, grumpy mood, compared to if you approached the same task in a happy mood.

How does this relate to web design?

In web design it's all about keeping users engaged for as long as possible, whilst also providing them with as much information about your company as you can. We could write page after page of perfect content and place masses of links, calls to actions, promotional banners and buttons to make sure people know where to read, but if it's not aesthetically pleasing, people just won't be interested.

Keeping people happy throughout your website, and providing graphics that appeal to the user are a great way to use this effect to your advantage. The happier they are, the less people notice those higher price tags, or those time consuming forms that they have to fill in, or the membership price that they have to pay but don't want to. They'll be more forgiving and more likely to be on your side if you succeed with the right look and feel.

Top tips to use this to your advantage

  • Prioritise. Don't confuse important content, with the most important content. Your company will provide numerous services that are all very important, but the harsher you are when defining the top few of these, the easier it will be for your user. The easier it is for your user, the happier they will be, and the happier they are, the more money they want to give you! It's true! If you confuse the user with too many calls to actions they'll feel like a rag doll who's been pulled all over, and they will feel tired, frustrated and leave.
  • Don't PANIC!! Remember you have a whole website to store your information, it doesn't all need to be on the first page. Make people calm when they get to your home page. Make it simple and condense the amount of information on the page (then provide more content along the journey at appropriate points when people have found where they want to be).
  • Keep the graphics simple. Too many styles, font types, effects and animations will only confuse the main messages that you have. Simple effects and graphics are faster loading, and will prevent people from getting agitated.
  • Work with simple colour palettes. A few key colours for your main content, and then one colour to highlight important links and buttons. This is why designers use so much white space – it makes designs feel lighter, less busy and therefore easier to use. Giving this impression of it being easier to look at and decipher what's on screen, leads us to believe it's easier to use.
  • Design with empathy. Work out what people are feeling when they come to your website and work from that emotion, for example, if you're a plumber people will generally be in a bad mood before they get to your website because usually something's just gone wrong. We can pre-empt that by acknowledging that you understand their worries, and using phrases such as 'let's get that fixed for you' instead of just providing a list of services without any compassion or reassurance.
  • Use a photographer. Photographers are trained to get the exact right feel for your company, balancing subtle factors to achieve the best result visually. Using your own digital camera will never be as effective. Photographers know the best techniques for the right angles, they'll create scenarios without rubbish in the background, the sky will look amazing and the important details will stand out by slightly blurring the unimportant bits. A picture can truly speak a thousand words.
  • Provide some highs! People only remember the high and the low points of an experience. If there are some negative things you need them to do (pay money, fill something in) let's reward them with good things afterwards. Memories are stored when the happy hormones are released in the brain so offering little jokes, free gifts or mini games can help put your website experience back into the happy place.

The best thing about this advice, is that it's all 'feel good' advice. If we respect the thoughts of the user, we can provide happier users and happier users make happier businesses!

Plus these changes can be small, it doesn't necessarily mean starting again from scratch. Maybe take a few moments, imagine that you are one of your customers. Think how you'd be feeling when you get to your website, and think about your main goal. Is it obvious? Are you creating the right feel?

If you're unsure, just get in touch and we can help you to evaluate your website and offer some tips for improvements (if it needs it).

Now go and be free with all this beautiful new knowledge and make the web a happier place!

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