How emotional is your site design?

It’s easy to get bogged down in the world of deliverables when talking about User Experience: wireframes, research reports, prototypes, sitemaps and the like. But at the heart of good UX design is the craft of creating experiences that people love.

Psychology plays a big part in designing any sort of digital experience, and regardless of your role you can consider your site’s emotional impact on your audience. In other words: how are you making your users feel?

We scientists now understand how important emotion is to everyday life, how valuable. Sure, utility and usability are important, but without fun and pleasure, joy and excitement, and yes, anxiety and anger, fear and rage, our lives would be incomplete.” Don Norman: Emotional Design: Why We Love (Or Hate) Everyday Things’

A strong emotional experience when we’re using something makes us much more likely to remember it- and whether your users’ memories are positive or negative is up to you! In his book Designing For Emotion Aaron Walter argues that when we create things we should go beyond utility and try to delight our users:

People will forgive shortcomings, follow your lead, and sing your praises if you reward them with positive emotion.”

Forming these emotional bonds with your users makes them more likely to remember you, become engaged and share your work - things that most not-for-profit organisations are eager to achieve. So how can we build positive emotional design into our everyday work? My number one tip would be to put your users first. Your new web page or email newsletter might please the people, but what about the people who matter- your users? Will they be bored and frustrated by what you do? Or will they be surprised and charmed? How emotional is your design? Here are three easy things you can start doing today: Tip 1: First impressions count When we visit a webpage we don’t work our way around it in a careful, structured manner, taking everything in before deciding where to click. We scan. We skim. We hurriedly hunt around until we find what we hope is right. With this in mind, take some time to decide whether you’re giving your visitors a great first impression and triggering the right emotional response to your content. Put yourself in their shoes and ask if they’ll be able to find what they need on your site within five seconds of arriving. How about in two seconds? Or in .2 seconds? Assess what message you want to communicate in the first moments after landing on the page, and remove barriers to this. For instance: does your use of imagery support the emotional response you want? Tip 2: KISS!

Keep. It. Simple. Stupid. Remove as many words as possible from your copy, especially instructional copy. The less there is, the more chance your users will read it fully and understand. Go through your site to see if you can remove any excess words and make your users’ tasks simpler - frustration is never a welcome emotion.

Tip 3: Check your forms Forms are often neglected areas on the web, and are often far longer than necessary. Long forms bore and disengage users, so review yours and remove superfluous fields. Another common problem is the way marketing opt-in options are presented - double negatives are definitely a no-no! Keep these simple and understandable at a glance as getting these details wrong can leave your users with a poor impression of your organisation. This post originally appeared on Together We’re Better.


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