How to Use Psychology in Web Design

7 Minutes time to read
Psychology_web_design_Ester_Digital

Why do web designers use certain design elements and principles? They know what their visitors pay attention to and what exactly should be emphasized in order to get the desired reaction from them.

A lot of web designers know how to increase the conversion rate of a site and make it work as efficiently as possible by using certain fonts, lines, graphics, color combinations, and shapes. And the psychology of web design is precisely the tool that helps them to succeed. 

Do you want to get to know more about it? Learn how to evoke certain emotions in users and create a friendly environment for them? We got you. Let’s get started right now and talk about design psychology!

Design psychology – what you need to know

The truth is simple: lots of our initial decisions are based on the subconscious. And with the websites, it’s no different. We may not fully realize that, but we make up our minds about trusting or avoiding the information we get on them long before we read its texts.

If you’re a web designer that wants to get a positive response from the users, you should always remember: trust is gained within the first few seconds. Some even say, microseconds. And that is why you have to impress your visitors from the very beginning.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Does my website look safe?
  • Would users want to engage with it without second thoughts?
  • What vibes would they get from the colors?
  • Would they immediately feel welcomed or want to go back to searching the Internet for some better options?

Not satisfied with the answers? That’s not a big deal. You can surely change everything for the better, using your web design psychology knowledge.

Why do you need psychology in web design

Now we are going to learn how exactly psychology can influence your business and what you should do to bring the most out of it.

01 Building trust

You can be a true expert, but you gain nothing if you can’t show it off in a subtle manner. Instead of screaming about their professionalism, some web designers use easily recognizable patterns, while others find creative samples far more appealing. It doesn’t matter what team you’re playing for, while your website design makes the visitors feel at ease.

If your website’s purpose is obvious, and people understand what the website is about immediately after opening the page – congrats! You’re on the right track.

02 Psychological triggers

Applying specific design elements may trigger your website visitors and encourage them to make certain moves. Everything matters: from the color theme and images to the fonts and texts. 

Using high-quality, relevant images emphasizes professionalism, while well-worded text and its clever design make your intent apparent. Whether your website’s brand is recognizable or completely new, you can affect your visitors’ thinking, if only you don’t forget about the basic principles of human behavior. 

03 Emotion psychology

By understanding how our minds work, you can make designs that will affect users in a compelling way. While logic is also important, it’s so intertwined with emotion that not a single decision is made without its impact. 

04 Pattern consistency

There are lots of things that can make your website easily remembered by visitors. Certain colors, types of images, the way you style your text – anything can become known as your signature throughout the time. So, the more you repeat your patterns, the more recognizable it becomes. That means people will trust your website more just because they see something familiar in front of their eyes.

05 Dig deeper with visual factors

Visual impact is one of the most important things when it comes to web design. You can, of course, adapt the latest designs on the market and call it a day, but in reality, there is much more you can do by digging a little bit deeper. Your content and original design elements can have a big influence on people’s experience of your website. 

06 Negative space concept

Negative space (i.e. empty areas around objects) in web design helps to outline the elements included on the page and navigate through them. It’s not that easy to properly read the text without the space, and the whole website’s composition can also seem overloaded in this case. Thus, you should keep it in mind.

So, those were the reasons why the psychology of web design needs to be considered. Now let’s talk about the principles.

Want to work with an expert design team?

Contact us right now

Explore

Design psychology principles

A The Von Restorff Effect

This effect was named after psychiatrist Hedwig von Restorff and its meaning is quite simple: items that stand out are much more catchy. 

If you want to elicit positive feelings, you need to do your job differently. Users are so used to seeing the same stuff every day and something unusual will instantly draw their attention. And that’s exactly what you need in web designing.

B Mental Models

That is something UX designers use a lot in their work. Mental modeling is the process of designing a website while seeing it through your users’ eyes. Put yourself in their shoes, do an intuitive check throughout the entire design process, and then decide. Is your website’s message apparent enough? Are your visuals moving in the right direction? Does everything seem to be in order? Can’t see it yourself? Ask for help!

C Gestalt Psychology

This psychological theory has been known for decades and it’s still current today. The meaning of the theory is pretty much explained in the word “gestalt,” which means “unified whole.” To put it another way, it shows how different design elements are grouped. 

The principles of gestalt psychology include:

01 Similarity

When objects look similar in some way, a user may identify them as a group or as one object.

02 Continuation

This principle means that users’ eyes will move from one object to the other without stopping, regarding them as one.

03 Proximity

That happens when objects are placed so close to each other that users perceive them as one element or a group even if they aren’t similar at all.

04 Closure

This one appears when the object isn’t complete but still looks like a full shape in users’ eyes. 

05 Figure/ground

This principle shows that sometimes we see the same object differently. Our eyes can be focused either on the background or the object itself, which changes its perception.

In general, the gestalt principles prove that not everything is what it seems to be. Our brain loves playing tricks on us, and it should be always considered by designers during the creating process.

Scanning patterns

It’s not uncommon for most people to quickly scan a web page to check out what it is about before properly looking at it. Users want to be sure they are interested in information before actually reading it and they often do it using certain patterns.

Among the most popular scanning patterns, two are usually distinguished. They are called “F” and “Z” patterns. We’ve mentioned them briefly in our previous article on website header design but it’s worth mentioning again.

The “F” pattern is considered to be used mostly for web pages with a lot of content. The website’s visitor usually scans a horizontal line on the top, then looks down and reads another horizontal line (this one is normally much shorter). Next users check out a vertical line down on the left side. It helps them to find some keywords, which is really useful when it comes to overloaded pages.

The “Z” pattern is good for the pages with less amount of information. A visitor scans a horizontal line on the top from the left side to the right side and then moves down to the opposite corner at a diagonal. The last one is the horizontal line at the bottom of the page, also from left to right. Such a pattern is good for landing pages and helps users to see all the core data within a couple of seconds. 

If you know these patterns, you can easily put the most important information in the right places and encourage users to make expected actions promptly. 

The psychology of shapes in web design

Now, let’s talk about the shapes in web design. Just like everything else, various shapes can be perceived in a specific way by our brain. For instance, it can have associations with certain emotions or characteristics. And it’s not an accident but a rule.

The thing is, no logo is chosen randomly. And if you want to make wiser choices, look carefully. Here is what the basic shapes may be associated with for many people.

  • Horizontal lines

Such simple shapes can be perceived as a sign of peace, calm, and serenity.

  • Vertical lines

They can be used to translate strength and assertiveness. 

  • Ellipses, ovals, and circles

These shapes are all about positivity and community. They usually translate positive messages about love, friendship, relationships, and unity. 

  • Triangles and squares

Such shapes are associated with security and support, professionalism, power, and productivity. 

Bear this in mind while doing your job, and it will certainly come in handy one day.

Page layout

Remember how we mentioned the importance of composition and arrangement of visual elements on the website’s page? That’s it. That’s the layout’s importance.

You can be brilliant at color matching or text styling but it won’t do you any good if the whole page’s organization is clunky. The page layout should guide the website’s users and help them find exactly what they came for. Hence, we can highlight the most crucial inputs that web designers shouldn’t forget about.

  1. Focus on the main message. You can use attention-grabbing titles, call-to-actions, and links for it.
  2. Leave enough empty spaces. Everything should be easy to read.
  3. Be careful while choosing the placement of your key elements. “F” and “Z” patterns again, right?
  4. Always take into consideration human behavior’s psychological aspects. Logic is important but emotions often affect us even more.

Memorizing this will definitely bring you the most beneficial outcome. A good structure of a website’s content can save your users from stress and boredom, while also increasing engagement. So, it’s worth your time and attention.

And now we’re going to talk about something no less important – the colors.

Let's create a website of your dreams

We will help you with that

Explore

Color psychology in web design

As we’ve already established, users assess your website within the first few seconds. If you want to immediately capture their attention, you should make sure everything on the site is translating the right message. Colors included.

It could be said that color choices are one of the most important things you should take into consideration while designing a website. Different color tones have different effects on the users and can alter their behavior. That’s why ignoring the psychology of colors would be a big mistake for web designers.

If you want to motivate someone to explore your web page and enhance the conversion rate, you should use fitting colors to evoke the required emotions. Users always react better to whatever they think is more relevant to them.

Making everything colorful is not always a good idea but it could work if you don’t forget about keeping balance. If your main colors are bright, the others should be neutral. Usually, web designers tend to use neutral colors in the background, and it makes perfect sense since neutrals often act the same as white space does. They don’t overload the eyes of the users and allow them to rest.

When it comes to choosing what colors you should pick, always recall one simple piece of advice. Keep in mind your target audience.

  • Who are they?
  • What do they desire?
  • Does your website need to look professional or more casual?
  • What values do you want to translate through it?
  • Do you think the choice of colors suits the theme?

If you’re hesitant, find someone from the target audience around you and ask them. Better safe than sorry!

And one more thing: be mindful of the contrast and brightness of the colors. They are vital in web design. Contrast is the relation between different design elements. And the less similar to each other they are, the greater should be the contrast between them. The colors shouldn’t be too dull or too bright. After all, everything in web design is about creating a pleasant and welcoming atmosphere for the users while giving them clearly structured information they came for.

Now, let’s finally talk about the basic colors and find out what they might represent. 

Blue is known for showing honesty, freedom, strength, calmness, and trustworthiness. As you may have noticed, the biggest social media apps use the blue color in their logos, and that’s no surprise after all.

Orange is considered to be a happy color. It represents friendship and modesty, so a lot of brands are using it to show their affordability and transparency.

Purple is often described as creative and imaginative. It goes well with nature-inspired and artistic themes.

Yellow represents positive emotions and translates confidence, rationality, and encouragement. Lots of apps use it when they want to be seen as welcoming and a little bit playful at the same time.

The red color is always the one that draws attention. It’s energetic, bold, passionate, and engaging. We all know the brands love red-colored themes, and we can’t blame them!

Black can be perceived differently. Sometimes it screams authority and luxury, and sometimes it can be seductive and sophisticated. Black is often used to promote fancy, expensive products to the audience. 

Green is mostly associated with some natural, fresh, and organic stuff. It’s all about growth and earth, nurture, and progress. 

Brown is also a natural color that is associated with warmth, stability, loyalty, and friendship. It can be a good fit for food, animal, and finance themes.

White is considered to be the color and peace and simplicity. It can be related to the healthcare industry, high tech, and science websites. 

Grey always seems to be professional and practical. It’s associated with formality and great for professional, expert pages.

Pink is often described as caring and nurturing. It’s the color of love and aspiration and is usually soothing and gentle. 

Multi-color is daring and boundless. It causes positive emotions and can be perceived as something playful and adventurous.

Of course, different tones of these exact colors can easily change the perception, but the overall impression of the colors often remains approximately the same. So, which ones to choose and how precisely to use them is only up to you.

Using space in web design

There is a lot of talking about the right space usage in web design. It plays a significant role in making a website modern and effective, which attracts new visitors and increases the conversion rate.

A well-known saying claims that “less is more” and we wholeheartedly agree. Minimalism is great and smart minimalism is like a breath of fresh air. If you want to make your website look more professional and informative, remember the importance of the space while coordinating your content. Users tend to appreciate a well-organized website and trust it more than chaotic, overloaded pages.

Keep things simple but don’t miss out on the details. Even the space between the lines of the texts makes a difference. Consider that during the creation process and you’ll have no trouble making a website that is practical and easily accessible at the same time.

Typography and font psychology in web design

Colors, space, and graphic elements are not the only things that need to be taken seriously. Typography and font psychology are also crucial for making the best first impression. Fonts can translate feelings and emotions, just like colors do while influencing how users think and feel, not less than other visual components of web design.

Right now, there are thousands of typefaces, and you can pick whatever suits you best. Optimizing typography usually means enhancing readability and usability, which also makes a great impact on the first impression of your website.

Here we have some tips to make your web design process a little bit easier.

  1. Don’t use a lot of different fonts at once. Minimalism belongs here too and helps to avoid confusion.
  2. Remember that Serif fonts are often perceived as professional, thoughtful, and serious. Sans-serif fonts may appear more modernized and informal.
  3. Standard fonts are easier to read. Users see them every day and absorb the information faster, which can be useful.
  4. Long lines and all-cap texts are not always a good idea since they can be harder to read, so be careful with that.
  5. There is nothing wrong with different typeface sizes if it still looks well. Just make sure it doesn’t seem like your text is screaming at or whispering to your visitors.

Another important thing is the way a font is used on the page. There are two definitions: leading – space between the lines, and kerning – space between the letters. More space between the lines makes the copy easier to read, while its lack makes the text look too heavy. It’s a little bit different with the letters, so you’ll have to try and kern it until you’re satisfied.

Even though some of the listed things might seem small and insignificant, they still can change users’ perceptions of the whole page. In the end, a lot depends on the message you want to convey to your audience and the audience itself. 

Navigation structure and hierarchy

The navigation structure is vital in web design. Decent navigation not only helps users to reach whatever they need within a short amount of time but also prevents them from being overwhelmed by the suggested choices. It’s important to encourage them to explore and grasp more once they get on your site, so a good navigation menu is a must-have.

It’s considered that people usually remember the first and the last items they see in sequence better. So, it’s necessary to put the most important keywords there. For example, Blog and About Us pages will probably not change the conversion rate too much, while Our Work and Contact Us pages can be influential.

Double-check your navigation structure to be certain it corresponds to the website’s purpose. The users will greatly appreciate it.

Balance

A proper balance forms harmony and is accomplished the moment every element of the page gets to the right place while keeping the right proportions. Usually, web designers aim to reach harmony by turning to symmetry. It helps to get the users’ attention. Especially to particular elements of the page. 

Apart from the symmetry, there are asymmetry, radial, and mosaic balance. Thus, there are enough options to compose balance in both traditional and more creative ways to change it up a little bit.

The only thing you should keep in mind – the visual weight of your page’s elements must be approximately the same on both sides of the page. Our mind also loves order, so a balanced design can easily double the user’s satisfaction from visiting your website and make it even more profitable. 

Get a set of powerful custom illustrations

Ask us how

Explore

Logo design

Once again, people need to know what your website is about immediately after they access it. And logos can be either a perfect opportunity to intrigue and fascinate them or a plain way to push them away. 

A good logo shouldn’t overwhelm users but should communicate with them and add some complexity to the page. One of the biggest logo mistakes in web design is its wrong size. Users often feel negative about large logos as well as about the logos that are placed too prominently. It distracts them and leads them away from the topic, which decreases the conversion rate.

Some web designers believe that bigger logos scream about power and strength but in reality, it’s just annoying and inefficient. A proper logo is a great way to acquaint people with your brand’s style and to make it more recognizable while remembering about the balance and not being intrusive. 

Content

Everything matters in web design, but some things matter more. One would say that content of a website could be the most important part of all.

Users access the websites looking for content. It can be pictures, some pieces of information, videos, or audio – anything one can think of. Consequently, the better your content is, the more visitors it’ll attract. That’s why there are so many content marketing professionals, eager to help web designers.

Here are a few notes you can find useful.

– Using only well-placed and concise content is always beneficial. Everything should be in order for easy access and understanding.

– Relevant information should always be placed on the top of the page. Not everyone has patience for endless scrolling down.

– People aren’t going to read huge blocks of text. They’ll probably leave and look for some other source if they can’t find the necessary information quickly.

– Be aware of a big amount of images and videos. They can intimidate users too.

Another thing we should mention is the uniqueness of your content. Digital competition is real nowadays and no one is interested in reading the same information over and over again. Unique content is your chance to show your expertise and to separate your website from the competitors. 

Written content should also correlate with the first impression of your website. When everything leads users to the same conclusion, it becomes more memorable for them. Obviously, it’s not that easy to always consider psychological factors, but the result is usually worth it.

CTA

The concept of CTA (which stands for “call to action”) is well-known among all marketing professionals. 

As numerous researches show, call to action has the biggest influence on the website’s conversion rate. It especially concerns the landing pages. And that’s really curious because CTA’s purpose is quite simple. It urges users to do a certain action. The more they do so, the better the conversion rate is, which means bigger sales if everything is organized correctly. 

The call to action button should be noticeable. If it can’t steal users’ attention, it’s probably not good enough. A call to action needs to be short and clear since it’s only effective if it provides solutions for users and ensures they go wherever is planned next. 

Generally, CTA allows users to consider their future opportunities. In other words, the possibility of getting desired results and satisfaction. 

How to integrate web design psychology in your website

So, now you know what exactly needs to be explored during the web designing process and why the psychological aspect is so essential for enhancing user engagement with your website.

The last question is how to implement this knowledge directly into your site. And to answer this, we created this little checklist.

01 Never forget that websites are made for people

If you want your website to be successful, you should know your audience well. Learn about their needs, desires, and values. Give them what they want. Don’t be afraid to ask their opinions.

It’s better to be meticulous and win than to not do enough research and fail all because of the wrong perception of your target audience.

02 Earn trust and prove your reliability

Make your audience feel that everything on your website was made precisely for them. Everything from the color tones to the images should correlate with the page’s theme. 

If your audience is fashion lovers, make more colorful, stylish items that easily stand out among others. If you’re making a website for entrepreneurs, make sure that your color tones are neutral and that you use some official statistics or cases. 

03 Simplicity is the key to success

No one likes complications. No one enjoys overloaded pages with dozens of unrelated pictures or tons of texts. No one wants to do it the hard way. 

People just want answers, solutions. And they’ll choose those websites that help them to find them. Not the other way around. 

04 Make users remember your website

If you’re a professional, you should know about the importance of consistency. Style some elements the same way, let people become familiar with them, and then repeat that.

Once you earn their trust, it’ll automatically grow with each page just because the users continue to see your unique elements and have positive associations with them. 

On a final note

The web design process is quite a journey and it has a lot of its pitfalls. However, knowing the psychology behind web design can not only become a great help to you, but it’ll also lead you to the most rewarding results.

In this article, we explained the most significant psychology principles in a simple, concise way. We hope you enjoyed it and found it useful. If you have any questions or queries, contact us and we’ll answer in no time.

No problem!

Enter your email adress below. We’ll shoot you a link.

Thank you! The link to the article is already in your email inbox.

Well sometimes it is quite complicated to explain simplicity!

We let our work speak for itself.

Explore
Brand_colors_Ester_Digital

What Brand Colors to Choose: Exploring the Variety

When it comes to choosing colors for their brands, many companies and businesses are mainly guided by their own tastes and preferences. Unfortunately, they do not understand that by doing that, they are making a terrible mistake. Research shows that color in marketing catches most of the attention, therefore the decision on brand colors should...

Website_navigation_Ester_Digital

Website Navigation Design: How-to Guide & Best Practices

It’s hard to argue that proper website navigation is crucial. One could say it’s similar to a map the purpose of which is to lead a person to their destination. Website navigation leads users too – but to the information they need and actions they want to take. It’s not easy to find the necessary...

How_to_create_effective_FAQ_page_Ester_Digital

FAQ Page: Top Examples & How to Design Yours

There are very few websites that do not have a FAQ (or Frequently Asked Questions) page, and it’s hardly surprising. Whether your business is about products or services, people always want to know more about it, and the FAQ section can quickly give them much-needed answers. FAQ pages are essential for earning user trust by...

React_Ester_Digital

Introduction to React JS 101

How to build a website? It is definitely not easy: it takes skills, knowledge, and tools to develop an effective web solution with a stunning user interface. Coding languages and libraries are essential to any web developer’s experience. With so many of them around, it’s hard to pick one that can create a high-quality platform...