Increase engagement with emotional design

1. Focus on improving the initial impression with a strong value proposition.

Research shows that users will decide on a website in approximately 8 seconds. In that time, you need to establish what the site is about and how it can help the user. This value proposition is typically expressed in terms of a strapline or page title. A strapline should communicate what the offering actually is as well as what benefits it delivers. For example, Apple’s strapline for its Watch is “The future of health is on your wrist.” This title makes it clear what the product is and how it can help.

2. Re-enforce your value proposition with compelling benefits and your strongest features.

For a user to desire an offering, they must see the benefits it can provide them. This is typically either a goal people want to achieve or a pain point they want to alleviate. For example, a fitness tracker might help somebody achieve their goal of appearing more attractive to the opposite sex or overcoming the pain of being too unfit to go on a skiing holiday. Benefits need to be supported by features that explain how the offering will deliver on its proposed benefits. For example, a fitness tracker will make you fitter by encouraging you to exercise more and track your progress to keep you motivated.

3. Address objections to helping users overcome concerns and avoid them putting off acting.

Users often fail to act because of concerns. You need to understand what these concerns are through user research and then address them in your copy. For example, if people fear it will be hard to unsubscribe from your newsletter, make sure you address this objection alongside your newsletter call to action.

4. Decide on what kind of emotional response you need to create to encourage users to act.

Before you write copy, be clear about the emotions you want to create in users. Brainstorm three or four words that you want people to associate with your offering. Do you want them to feel it is trustworthy, professional, or approachable? If you struggle to find the right words, try imagining a famous person who best represents your brand. What characteristics does that person have? Those are the kinds of characteristics you want to communicate.

5. Write copy that contains emotional and powerful words, especially in headings.

Ensure your copy uses engaging wording. This will stimulate an emotional connection with your offering that encourages action. Headline Studio Pro, helps you craft compelling headlines and includes a bank of words that are both powerful and emotionally charged.

6. Use color, typography, and styling to establish the appropriate feeling in users.

We strongly associate certain colors with certain feelings. For example, almost all fast food franchises use a combination of yellow and red because red triggers associations with hunger. In contrast, the combination of red and yellow are associated with speed. Equally, your choice of font can leave users with a very different impression. For example, a serif will come across as stable, established, and formal, while a slab serif will appear strong, powerful, and masculine. Finally, consider other stylistic elements such as negative space, gradients, etc., as these also shape the user’s impressions.

7. Make the page scannable using content blocks and a visual hierarchy that guides the user's attention.

Break your content down into blocks, with each block promoting a benefit or feature. This will aid the scannability, helping users see how the offering can help them. Each block should tackle a single benefit or feature and include a heading and description. They can optionally also include imagery and a link to more information.

8. Utilize imagery to strengthen the user's association with the product and lead their attention to calls to action.

The imagery you choose for the design sets the user’s expectations regarding who the offering is for. If the website is full of imagery of business executives, that sets certain expectations about who the audience should be. Just ensure that when you show people, those people represent those you want to reach. At the very least, make the people in the images an achievable aspiration. In other words, do not show young, attractive, and excessively fit people using a fitness tracker if you are aiming at middle-aged mums. Instead, show a happy, fit middle-aged mum. You can also use imagery to draw attention to critical calls to action. For example, if you have an image of a person, you will naturally follow their eye-line. That means if we place a call to action in their eye-line, they are more likely to see it.

9. Test your design for both clarity and emotional response using surveys and eye tracking simulation software.

To test that you have received the right emotional response, run a semantic differential survey by asking a single question. “On a scale of 1 to 5 where 1 strongly disagrees, and 5 is strongly agreed, tell us how much you agree with the statement “this design is friendly.” Replace friendly with whatever impression you wish to leave. If your design rates highly, you can be confident you are eliciting the right reaction. You can also test whether users are seeing your critical messaging using attention insights. Attention Insights is a new generation of apps that uses machine learning and thousands of hours of eye-tracking studies to predict where a person will look when viewing your design. Presuming their heatmap indicates user attention is on critical messaging and calls to action, then you know you are in a good place.