As consumers, we've all become accustomed to exceptionally designed online experiences. Even if we aren't professional web designers or graphic artists, we know what looks good and reward companies that have got their aesthetics just right by giving them our money (some examples are: Periscope, Nest and Uber).

More and more, companies are focusing on building a personality and story into every website and product. This evokes an emotional reaction from a visitor. Personality turns a lifeless product or soulless corporation into more than sum of its parts. Expressing the company's personality helps create an emotional connection with the audience.

This isn't just something large corporations do--savvy entrepreneurs and one-person shops have also caught on.

Effective emotional design is created for human beings because emotional design turns visitors to a website into brand evangelists. At its core, emotional design shows empathy for the audience a website serves.

Design like this puts the audience first, before the company or the business owner and their goals. Anything the company wants to accomplish is first filtered through the lens of:

  • How will this serve our audience better?
  • How will this website or product make their lives easier?
  • What about this website or product is valuable to them?

Effective emotional design is also focused on simplicity. Not purely for the sake of aesthetics, but because it is easier to trigger a single emotion response than several.

Design that speaks to emotion is:

  • Clear and easily understood. This means navigation nomenclature makes sense and any calls to action are logical next steps.
  • Visually appealing. Design looks professional, consistent and elements of the layout are in expected places.
  • Enjoyable. The design wants to be looked at, the writing wants to be read and there are cues a visitor wants to follow to further pages.
  • Memorable. What about the design stands out? Is Unique?
  • Personal. No pretences or corporate machinations. It reflects the honest personality of what it represents.

"Emotion plays a powerful role in our lives and has gained significant attention as a priority area of study in interaction design"--Golman & Jordan

Effective emotional web design speaks to 3 main points:

  • First Impressions. The look of a website is an instant trust builder or trust loser. If there are flames on buttons, horrible stock photos or poorly matched colours, a visitor will leave the site faster than they typed the URL.
  • How it functions. Once a visitor is past a favourable first impression, they'll look for things like: clear navigation and intuitive next steps for a task they want to accomplish.
  • Perceived value. Because attention spans are short, what's the value of staying on the website? Is the content worthwhile? Is the product or service worth paying for?

Strong emotional web design isn't an afterthought or something you quickly add in right at the end. It's factored into the entire process, so all functions, features, layout and language are designed with the correct and consistent feeling. It's incorporated into the logo, colour palette, layout, photography and graphics and even content.

Emotionally attractive design makes people feel good. It makes them feel like they belong with the product, company, person. This means putting your audience's needs above your own in the way you frame your website.

And once you make someone genuinely feel good, you've successfully stood out and been noticed in the best possible way.

Published on: Apr 2, 2015
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.