|As 2014 nears its close and the web design and marketing industries respond to Google’s most recent algorithm updates, predictions for 2015 web design strategies abound. But the theory posited by Shane Jones in a Nov. 12 article for Search Engine Journal may surprise even those within the web design industry.
“What is the key to a conversion-based design?” Jones asks, referring to the goal of converting web traffic into paying customers. His answer: “As little design as possible.”
Jones cites a study by Google showing that viewers consistently rate simple designs as being more “beautiful” than visually complex ones. This is backed up by a study Harvard researchers published last year, showing that despite wide variations in aesthetic preferences among different demographics, simple sites appeal to the widest possible audience.
When one type of business — a car dealership, for example — builds a website that looks a certain way, other car dealerships follow suit. Soon, consumers’ brains form a preconceived notion of what that kind of website should look like.
“These [prototypes] exist for tons of different website categories, from ‘fashion sites for 20-somethings’ to ‘mommy blogs,’” Jones writes. “By creating these shortcuts, your brain makes it easier for you to make sense of the world.”
This effect, Jones argues, creates what is called “cognitive fluency.” This in turn rests on the psychological principle of mere exposure, which shows that the greater level of exposure a person has to something, the more he or she will prefer it.
“[P]eople will prefer sites where they instinctively know where things are and what actions they need to take,” he writes. “If your blog or ecommerce product page were to deviate from the norm, it would not be nearly as easy to think about. This lack of ease could result in your users rejecting your site.”
While few of the other predictions for 2015 design have endorsed such prototypical strategies, ease of use has been widely hailed as the most important factor for new website designs. “Ease of use is critical for the end user,” The Startup Magazine summarizes.
But most other 2015 web design guides have addressed ease of use as it relates to navigation and mobile optimization, instead of information processing.
The key, if Jones’ theory holds, is to present visual information that requires less processing in the brain.
In practical terms, he recommends making sure every element is necessary (meaning that it communicates information) and uses shapes and colors, as well as words, to convey the intended meaning. “This goes back to basic psychology, which impacts how people respond to different colors and typographic faces,” he writes.
In other words, website design is largely about consumer psychology.
“Anybody not employing conversion tactics in their design is just wasting money. Purchase decisions are made in the limbic part of the brain. Pretty much all design elements become moot if no psychology is used in the arrangement and text of the content. The most important developer in a website design team is actually the copy writer,” explains Andreas Huttenrauch, Chief Digital Strategist for Globi Web Solutions.