Einstein’s formula E=MC2 is known throughout the world and frequently praised for it’s beautiful simplicity. We know what it means – sort of – and his moment of genius has been captured in a way that we can all understand. Simplicity can be extremely powerful.
So why is simplicity important in web design? Essentially our brains have two systems for reasoning. Our conscious thought is slow and analytical, while our unconscious reasoning is quick, effortless and forms the basis for our intuition. It’s this intuition that helps us very quickly form the decision whether we stay, or leave a website.
Considering the primary goal of any website is to quickly capture and retain the attention of a customer, then first impressions and psychology can play a very important role in effective web design. If we have to think too long about something then our analytical brain takes over and with it, a multitude of reasons why we shouldn’t engage with a website.
Complex writing makes you look like an idiot
Daniel M. Oppenheimer is a professor of psychology at the University of California. His research paper on the complexity of text not only provides some very interesting results, but has arguably the best title of any research paper ever written.
“Consequences of erudite vernacular utilized irrespective of necessity: problems with using long words needlessly”
Presumably frustrated with his students repeated use of selecting – tools – thesaurus – he studied how the complexity of text affected a readers perception of an authors intelligence. He found that as text became more complicated, readers gave the author a lower “intelligence” score.
It’s likely that most businesses would prefer to look smart, innovative and clever when a potential customers visits their website. So rather than using complicated copy; try to keep things simple.
1. Avoid using industry jargon
2. Keep paragraphs short
3. Break up information with headings/bullet points/images
The end result is a website that’s easy for the human brain to process. The human brain prefers it, customers will like it and they will thank you for it.
Using Legible Fonts Can Double Your Sales
Cognitive fluency is a measure of how easy it is to think about something. Not surprisingly people prefer things that are easy to think about and your choice of font can play a surprising role in how people interact and think about your website.
A joint study by Yale, Stanford and the University of Michigan tested the impact that two different types of font had on an identical selection of product descriptions. One was easy to read, the other more difficult. They found that the easy to read font doubled the number of customers willing to purchase a product.
While it seems like common sense, it’s often surprising how many websites are designed with purely “style” in mind. Yes it’s important to have your own brand identity that can make you stand out, absolutely; but it needs to be balanced with usability, simplicity and legibility.
Colour, Emotion & Behaviour
Colour plays a huge role in our psychology, attitudes and behaviour. When we see a colour it activates an area of the brain called the hypothalamus that’s responsible for the production of hormones. And as we know, hormones affect our mood and behaviour.
During the middle ages, Blackfriars Bridge in London was a bleak and gloomy affair. It was originally painted black and unfortunately became a popular suicide spot. When it was painted green the number of suicides fell dramatically.
While the colour of website is unlikely to have such a dramatic effect, it does play an important role in how people perceive your company. The foundation for choosing your colour palette essentially comes down to your audience and your industry.
Blue is seen to be serene, calm, logical and instills trust. The preferred colour for many corporate and social media organisations including IBM, Capital One, Facebook, Twitter & LinkedIn. However blue isn’t advisable for a business who deal with food as there aren’t many natural foods that have a Smurf like hue.
Red conveys power & passion and is used by Coke, Virgin, Bugatti, Netflix and a number of “adult” retail brands.
Green is the colour of mother earth, popular with the young and preferred by environmental organisation’s or outdoor companies. E.g. Starbucks (fair trade coffee), Body Shop, most organic food brands and Mountain Warehouse.
Purple is the colour that divides gender the most. Women tend to love it; men hate it. It’s used for whimsical or luxury products like Cadbury’s or Asprey (they supply the Royal Family with crowns).
Put simply; logo’s attract more customers when the colour of a brand matches the personality of the audience, the services and the industry you’re in.
Simplicity gives us pleasure
We know that people are much more likely to stay on a website if it’s easy to use. Making things simpler can often reduce the dreaded “bounce rate”, but it can also give us a momentary burst of pleasure.
A study by Peter R Canon at the University of Bangor found that visual stimuli that was easy to process, made people smile. There’s obviously much more to the research than this, but the basic premise is that the vast majority of us prefer simplicity. It’s nice, it’s comforting, it’s enjoyable and ultimately effective web design should take human psychology into consideration during the design process.
Paradoxically simplicity often takes the most time, but we never said it was easy.
About the author: Designmatic is a design agency in Kent specialising in web-design, branding and creative design for major brands and ambitious startups.