Plenty of strategists, designers, psychologists, and UX analysts have written about the relationship and interplay between human psychology and a website’s influence over users. It seems that there are countless articles and infographics exclaiming “5 ways to improve your website using marketing psychology” or “How to use color theory for your online brand.” So in that sense, this article is nothing new in the broader scheme of things. No, what’s unique about this article is that we’re pooling all of the psychological triggers that should be considered as you rethink your website. And this relates to all aspects of a website, including design, content, brand, and user experience.
How Can this Help You?
Why would this be useful? Because, let’s face it – none of us have accurate job descriptions! Our respective roles in digital business often reach far beyond the scope of our titles. We can’t just think about some small aspect of web design and hope that our responsibilities end there; we’re responsible for the outcomes of the entire project, so we need a holistic understanding of how humans are interacting with our digital experiences.
Our respective roles in digital business often reach far beyond the scope of our titles. We can’t just think about some small aspect of web design and hope that our responsibilities end there; we’re responsible for the outcomes of the entire project, so we need a holistic understanding of how humans are interacting with our digital experiences.
Over the last decade, digital marketers have strived to intimately understand the humans on the other side of the experiences we create – learning their interests, desires, habits, and tasks. With so much information on the topic, you could spend days trying to read and gather the right information for your website redesign. Each piece saying something a little different, making it that much more difficult to actually keep humans at the center of our digital strategy. If two pieces of advice lead you in different directions, which directive do you take?
This article aims to provide you with the foundational knowledge you need to think critically about your audience and their needs, and how such needs and preferences should influence your site redesign. OR, you could just bookmark this article and have a complete checklist of the best Digital Psychology strategies and tactics on the web. You’ll find most of our sources derive from infographics – so you can easily dig deeper with useful visual information. Chances are you’re already familiar with some of these concepts, but there’s bound to be a few nuggets for everyone.
As Daniel Pink once said, “There’s a gap between what science knows and what business does.” Hopefully this article is a tool to help bridge the gap.
Defining Our Sandbox
Psychology: the scientific study of the human mind and its functions, especially those affecting behavior in a given context.
So, why do people do what they do? What causes people to buy our products? The answers to these questions can be summarized by two words: needs and actions.
For our purposes, the definition of “Digital Psychology” is not vastly different than psychology in general.
Digital Psychology: the scientific study of the human mind and its functions, especially those affecting behavior within Digital environments.
Your web experiences are all about the humans on the other end of the funnel. When we consider the relationship between humans and your website, there are four areas where psychology and web design intersect:
- Brand Psychology – The overarching reasons your brand’s identity and personality connects with the deepest of human needs and desires.
- Design Psychology – The effects that aesthetic design and layout have on users’ decisions.
- Marketing Psychology – The science of digital commerce, conversion strategy, and copywriting.
- UX Psychology – The study of human behavior in digital usability.
While there is obvious overlap in all four groups, the distinctions help us organize the conversation, and the execution responsibilities of these groups often falls to multiple business units.
The overarching reasons why your brand’s identity and personality connect with the deepest of human needs and desires are determined by brand psychology.
We start with brand psychology in this four-part series because it needs to be thought through and documented before you even start your website redesign. It’s safe to say that if you haven’t holistically defined your brand, then your digital performance will suffer.
The brand is where we uncover the fundamentals of psychology and consumer behavior at a broad business-wide level. At the heart of this activity is the transfer of trust.
“A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer‘s decision to choose one product or service over another.” – Seth Godin
“The intangible sum of a product’s attributes: its name, packaging, and price, its history, its reputation, and the way it’s advertised.” – David Ogilvy
Here’s your checklist of the psychology-related topics to keep in mind when creating your digital brand.
I’ve written down my customer’s foundational reasons to buy: yes or no?
The Psychology: We still rely on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs as a classic framework for all human behavior. The lower needs are physiological, like food and shelter, while self-actualization is much more complex and difficult to attain. Write down some ways that your customer personas use your brand or product to fulfill these needs. You may think your product is basic or utilitarian, but everyone makes brand choices for a reason whether rational or irrational.
I’ve written down my approach to need perception: yes or no?
The Psychology: It’s a brand’s job to tap into a customer’s deepest needs and emotions – creating perceived reasons to buy. Appealing to emotions is the most effective way to develop this need, especially among brands that address the higher levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy.
I have identified and defined the Tribes that my customers and followers belong to: yes or no?
The Psychology: Social Identity, also called “In-Groups,” is a principle that simply says humans are a community-based species and we all have a desire to belong to a group. We all need to feel like the brand we’re buying from is the sort of brand that people like us choose. Using colloquialisms and creating an identity around the kind of person that buys from your brand will make “your people” feel more at home.
I have positioned my brand to stand for something meaningful: yes or no?
The Psychology: Research tells us that people fall in love with brands that share their values and beliefs. This is more than a “company values” exercise – it’s a core set of beliefs that you design your company around. For example, Zappo’s CEO Tony Hsieh defines the company not as an online retailer that sells shoes, but rather as a “customer service company that happens to sell shoes.” This sort of viewpoint isn’t tacked on; it’s been widely memorialized just how far Zappos will go to ensure an amazing customer experience.
I have positioned my brand to have a clear enemy: yes or no?
The Psychology: This also involves In-Groups. Research tells us that people rally around an idea if they share a common enemy like a belief or an idea. Associate your brand with certain ideals and distance yourself from the opposite. Your selling proposition should say who you are but also who you’re not.
I’ve created or defined a label for my users that makes them feel a part of a group: yes or no?
The Psychology: Research has shown that people like being labeled, and they are more inclined to participate in their group’s message if they feel included. For example, if people are told they are “politically active” they’re 15% more likely to vote. Our brain seeks to maintain a sense of consistency (even if it’s artificial), so much so that even being told we are a part of a group makes us more receptive to it’s message.
The best options look like the best options: yes or no?
The Psychology: Anchoring tells us that when people see one thing, it affects how they view something else. For example, the $39 Salmon entree looks reasonable when compared to the $89 Filet Mignon. If the $39 Salmon was on a menu with a $5 Big Mac, it may feel pricey. This is a “Goldilocks” effect. Making other options seem extreme will make your option seem like the reasonable choice.
I’m giving things to my website visitors: yes or no?
The Psychology: Reciprocity is the idea that when we’re given a gift we carry a psychological burden to return the favor. This is what content marketing is all about – in the same way that a sales person will send fruit baskets as a friendly gesture, marketers offer free content, products, or discounts in the hopes that their users will return the favor by engaging or purchasing.
I’m surprising and delighting my visitors with free stuff: yes or no?
The Psychology: Surprise Reciprocity is even better than traditional Reciprocity and can be a fun way to stand out in a crowded marketplace. Consider surprising your users with a free gift as a reward for their engagement or purchase. In the same way that a kid leaves the dentist’s office with a goody bag, your users can leave your digital experience with a free guide or special offer.
Stay Tuned for More
In Part Two of The Digital Psychology Checklist for Website Redesigns, we’ll take a look at design psychology and how it can influence everything from aesthetics to user interface. Be sure to bookmark our Blog for future installments of this series. We also invite you to download the entire four-part series in our Resources library.