We’ve talked a lot on our blog about how a convenient, easy-to-use website is a good thing and how a good user experience (UX) not only gives the user a reason to return, but actually helps with your SEO. There is, however, more to web design than UX; every decision on your website has an emotional impact as well as a pragmatic one.
In this blog, we’re going to focus on the factors that affect audience psychology because, while it’s the UX that helps the user to have a good experience, it’s the emotional impact that leaves an impression after they’ve left the site.
Establishing a mood
Before you can start developing an emotional connection with your user, you need to establish the mood of your brand. Moods are sort of like ambient emotions because they last longer than a specific emotion but at a lower level of intensity. Moods are more subtle in design, yet make a difference to how a person thinks about what they are coming into contact with.
It’s tempting to see mood as a binary concept, reducing it down to either happy or sad. But designers should be focused on more nuanced moods that best fit their brand. After all, it’s simple enough to create a page that generates a happy vibe, but is it what is best for your user? Not all products being sold are associated with happy emotions, but that doesn’t mean the mood has to be negative. For instance, a funeral website would be incredibly misguided if it were jolly and upbeat, but a designer could develop a positive – while appropriate – mood by channelling their clients’ emotions and working from there – perhaps opting for a theme of respect and remembrance. Other businesses are neither happy nor sad in their identity but strive for professional pragmatism.
Before deciding what theme your website should have, be sure to communicate to your designer the mood you want to establish. This will help them focus their creative direction, especially in the following areas:
It’s well-established that colour has a psychological impact on audiences – in fact we can prove it because the Dusted designers once gave their opinions of the most powerful colours in web design. The colours you use in your branding shouldn’t just look good, but also define an emotive tone for the website. For instance, blue is considered bold, white is confident and modern, and multiple colours can represent diversity. But those are positive perspectives; the colours you choose could have a negative connotation as well. Blue might be ‘professional’ but it – along with other cooler colours – can also be interpreted as cold and unfeeling. Warmer colours give a more friendly impression, but without an expert designer can also spark emotions like anger or stress.
The tint, hue, and shade of a colour, as well as factors like what colours are next to each other and how the background colour contrasts, will also affect the mood it creates. There is a huge amount of context behind colour and its impact, so be sure you’ve spoken to your designer in depth about what emotions your brand is/wants to be associated with. They’ll be able to give you some colour theme options based on your requirements.
Typography pulls double-duty when it comes to communicating with its audience: it helps to establish a mood based on, firstly, its visual appearance and, secondly, the information contained in the text. This means both aesthetic design and readability need to be taken into consideration. The font in a page title might be beautiful and set the tone perfectly, but it’s moot if the text is illegible. Meanwhile, the best message in the world won’t have an impact if it’s too difficult to incorporate into a concise design.
It’s not just the logo and title that require typography deliberation, however; the main body of text on a website should be considered, too. While it’s true that the fonts need to be consistent, readable, and properly contrasted to the backdrop, that doesn’t mean you can just choose Arial and call it a day. There are thousands of typefaces available for websites, each designed for specific circumstances and moods. A serif font (fonts with a ligature on the letters) like Times New Roman will portray professionalism or tradition, while sans-serif fonts like Proxima Nova are more closely associated with modernisation and informality. Some fonts are designed to be neutral, such as Helvetica, which is thought to take on the properties of the surrounding typefaces.
Using typography to help define mood means looking at type associations. As mentioned earlier, serif fonts are associated with tradition and authority and sans-serif with modernity and stability, but there are other options. Slab serif – with larger strokes on characters – suggest a bold, strong brand; script fonts imply creativity, friendliness, and elegance; and modern types (like Gotham) imply intelligence.
Web design is driven by the content on screen. Long before UX had become a defining measurement of website quality, sites would often be crammed full of written content and often incongruous imagery. This made sites very difficult to navigate, made finding useful information almost impossible, left users frustrated, and looked awful. We have since learned that leaving no space uncovered isn’t the best way to get a message across. In fact, understanding the use of space is as important as the content itself.
The density of content on your webpage will affect the user’s impression of the brand. A densely occupied page suggests savings, opportunity, and energy so is great for consumer sites like Amazon or Argos, which feature a lot of content on their pages. Minimalistic websites with only a few pieces of content per page draw attention to specific items, suggesting specialisation and expertise, so would be appropriate for a B2B company offering specialist services.
Regardless of how much content there is on each page, the content must still be aligned for a purpose. A lack of traditional structure can suggest a brand is thoughtful – often thinking outside the box – but could also have a negative impact on the website usability. A grid system for content suggests that a brand is efficient and pragmatic, but could also make them look bland and unadventurous.
At the end of the day, there isn’t a single element of your website that doesn’t immediately make some impression on anyone who sees it. Making sure that the message is true to your brand is up to you and your designer. Be sure to communicate your brand virtues clearly, and together you should be able to create a website true to your brand identity.
At Dusted, we are very experienced in working with brands to establish their identity, whether it’s an existing brand, a refresh, or a full rebrand. We get to the heart of your brand to bring out the best, most relevant values to the customer, thanks to our expert design team. If you’d like to know more about how we can help to communicate your brand identity, let us know via our contact page.