Emotion and design: The conversion experts best kept secret

The concept of emotion and design interconnecting has made its way around the design world.

Having an EQ as a designer means that you can tap into how your target audience feels and unlock the once-mysterious door to online engagement and emotional captivation.

Before you begin designing for the hearts of your people, you first have to understand the force behind emotion-centric design and how to unearth the psyche of your customer to arm your platform with the necessary tools to react. After all, emotion happens in real time.

What is emotion and design

In most cases emotion-centric UX refers to a designer honing the customer’s found emotions as fodder for driving conversions and sales.
As the aptly named site ‘Persuasive Design’ explains, “Emotion driven design is clearly one way of persuading users and can therefore, be used in persuasive design.”

However, the past few years have proven a fruitful era for the buyer-seller relationship. There has been a shift away from conversion-centric design (to be discussed further) and toward creating B2C relationships which cater to user happiness. Happy customers buy.

Talking with Marco van Hout about ’emotion-driven design,’” published on Architecting Happiness, makes the point: “Emotion is focused on specific interactions or relationships. That relationship is necessary to actually evoke emotion. We could say that emotional design is beginning to look for happiness, and positive psychology is the linking bit in between.”

Emotion based design seeks a subjective well-being. In other words, designing for emotions is not about one moment or win, but about the relationship that follows. It’s about catching an emotion in real time, reacting appropriately and creating a lasting impression and therefore, a lasting connection.

The benefits of emotional web design

Lillian Ayla Ersoy, UX Designer at BEKK, writes “Emotional Design revolves around our needs as humans to bond and make a connection between man and machine.”

Having the customer’s psyche at hand takes the guessing out of everything you implement online and clears up time for your brand to answer questions such as, “Is our funnel to long?” and “Why aren’t users clicking on our CTAs?”

Creating a positive connection throughout the funnel should be your goal when practicing emotion-centric design. If you can appeal to your target audience’s logic and emotions, and react immediately to their specific engagement, a long-term relationship will follow.

Why emotional web design will dominate

With so many platforms and brands working to de-mystify the buyer-seller relationship, a shift toward customer-centric design is a natural outcome, and a welcome one at that.

Now more than ever, buyers are offering opinions and ideas to their most used brands. A study by Forbes found that 42% of millennials are interested in helping companies develop future products and services.

Pre-millennial companies used to build platforms hoping that their target market would consume. Customers today are asking to be more hands on, which means there is no excuse for businesses who aren’t generating data from their leads.

For their time and input, customers expect a product that understands their emotions, that speaks in their voice and has inklings of their personality.

4 reasons why you should use emotion-driven design:

As we now know, tapping into the emotion that will create a wow-experience for your target audience, takes more than just strategic marketing.

While there are many ways to target emotions with your designs, first you need to understand what’s in it for your business.

These are the reasons why you absolutely must care about what your users are feeling, and why you must react as soon as their emotion has been felt:

1. Convert better

We know what we said earlier, and we stand by that sentiment, conversions are NOT everything when it comes to design.

Conversions do, however, offer companies a mirror into the minds of their target audience’s psyche. Emotion-driven design will answer this key question for a brand and for their visitors: Are you the correct customer for us and we are the correct seller for you?

In other words, targeted design allows for brands and buyers to achieve value, based on what the brand emphasizes throughout their funnel. If the UX is targeted, the customer can know immediately whether or not they’ve come to the right place, saving both parties time.

Tommy Walker makes the point that, “Atmospheric Marketing affects our emotions and buying decisions just as much in the digital world as it does in the real world.

Think of design as a form of content. If you were to take a screenshot of your homepage and upload it onto a platform most used by your target audience would it captivate them? Would they actually take the time to read your content?

If not, one of two things is wrong:

  1. You have the wrong audience
  2. You have the wrong design

Emotion plays a role in determining the design format that will best suit your target audience so that each side can get what they need faster – a valuable conversion or a great product. This is why having emotional intelligence is important for your website.

Take for example, True & Co, an online retail store for women seeking intimate apparel fitted to their unique shape. This online shop prides itself on the simple ideal, “For all of us, every woman, to feel comfortable in our own skin.”

On the brand’s homepage they offer two quizzes whereby their customers are able to create “their own shop” based on their body type.

To any other clothing company, two quizzes at the start of the funnel may appear excessive, but because True and Co’s mission revolves around personalized and unique products, the “build your own shop” model has received rave reviews from customers.

One happy customer, Katie Ferhenbacher writes, “One quiz question asks, “Do your cups runneth over?”, basically asking in a playful way if the bra you’re wearing is too small. You can’t help but laugh at that, easing the tension that is natural when you’re trying to think about the shape of your chest.”

Humanizing your buyer-seller interaction doesn’t start and end at the beginning of the funnel, it is a method which should be reflected throughout every touch point on your site.

Conversions are a product of finding the right people and offering them exactly what they need exactly when and where they need it. Having an emotional web design helps you reach that.

2. Build trust

For companies selling something other than bras – something more contentious or pervasively mistrusted – the design of your funnel can have a huge impact on how you jump hurdles to build trust.

UX Magazine studied an online health insurance exchange prototype developed by IDEO to define the exact elements that create trust or distrust and the design attributes that leave people wary or enthusiastic about your brand.

In one of their most intriguing findings, they noted that layering crucial information in a rollover, which refers to the act of rolling the mouse over a text or button causing the button to visually react by changing pages or information, can actually create suspicion with the customer.

Users who were met with rollovers when looking for crucial information felt that the brand was trying to breach their trust and that the information purposely wasn’t being made transparent. “I’m not even seeing the deductible amount,” one participant said, “That’s a big thing. [Rolls over it.] Oh, there it is. That’s kinda stupid. … I don’t know why you would hide it. That seems weird.”

In the appropriate context, rollover design is the perfect tool for offering customer’s playful design features and interactive information.

In the appropriate context, rollover design is the perfect tool for offering customer’s playful design features and interactive information

In the appropriate context, rollover design is the perfect tool for offering customer’s playful design features and interactive information

However, for customer’s who are seeking answers and fast and straightforward information, such as the people searching for healthcare, rollover design can seem in bad taste or even worse, feel trickey.

Knowing your audience and being aware of what emotions they are feeling coming into the search – be it excited, happy or frustrated – can help you make the best design decisions for your business.

In the end, good design works on transparency. It precedents simplicity, even when approaching complex topics, while offering the information that will give their target audience a seamless experience.

3. Optimizes creativity

Tapping into the customer’s emotions means honing the attitude, the spirit and the motives of a brand’s external network.

This process goes far beyond data and objective UX.

Emotional Branding is about creating more than just a nice logo. It is about flexing your businesses relevant and distinctive attributes and to create something meaningful that symbolizes your brand and customers alike.

A piece by Scott Barry Kaufman, for Harvard Business Review unearths the powerful effect of emotions on creativity. “In my own research,” he writes, “I found that “affective engagement”— the extent to which people are open to the full breadth and depth of their emotions— was a better predictor of artistic creativity than IQ or intellectual engagement.”

What this means for design is that being attuned to the emotions of your audience, and so much so that you are experiencing their emotions in real time and reacting accordingly, can allow you to create with power and to project the mission of your brand onto whatever you design.

The end goal is to offer your audience happiness, despite whatever else they might be feeling.

4. Allows you to emphasize products

There comes a time in every marketer’s life when words alone don’t suffice.

Take, for example, Apple’s newest MacBook. Designed to be thinner than ever and extremely functional, their website reads, “We started from scratch, reinventing each essential element as part of a singular, deceptively simple design. It’s everything there is to love about Mac. In its purest form ever.”

Apple’s pursuit at introducing their newest and “purest” creation to date, is far from average and when it comes to memorability, it certainly gets the job done.

Here is some of the golden scriptural which can be found throughout the product page:

“We started from scratch, reinventing each essential element as part of a singular, deceptively simple design.”

“Now when your finger strikes the key, it goes down and bounces back with a crisp, consistent motion that makes typing with precision a breeze.”

“We needed to reduce key wobbling for a keyboard this thin.”

“We designed an entirely new butterfly mechanism, which is wider than the scissor mechanism.”

Most of what we find on Mac’s landing page is essentially nonsensical to the average viewer.

These Apple-isms are glowing examples of Mac’s copywriters inventing their own language to describe what they consider to be an “uncompromising” experience.

Apple’s design elements and interactive UX is an experience in it of itself. Their images, opening and closing as the user scrolls and making lustful reveals throughout the funnel, are as oddly strategic as their copy.

Admittedly, this is not the best method for most brands, as to the average viewer it is just a bunch of beautiful nonsense. However, what it does say is that Apple knows their audience very well.

Apple’s customers can be divided into two camps. One camp is throwing down the extra green purely for a Mac’s sexy and sleek aesthetic (hence the soft core UX flow). The other camp is a bit more tech-sophisticated – they are the cohort of users actually reading about wobbling keyboards and lens apertures.

What Mac’s product page accomplishes is much more than just a wildly simple and weirdly sexy UX, but a mingling of the emotional complexities of each of their target audiences.

Emotion driven design- Apple


Given the very real task of connecting with your audience as more than a money-hungry-bot, your brand’s greatest tool is something that is (hopefully) secondary to the people behind the platform – Emotions.

If you have a great platform and are trying to reach your target audience, but simply aren’t succeeding, it means you are either talking to the wrong audience or talking to the right audience in the wrong language.

The key to perfecting your brand voice and speaking directly to your most valuable customers, is through emotion and design and a brand’s ability to react to their customer’s feelings.

Standout design has the distinct power to take a user from simply browsing to active clicking. “Great design awakens the senses and takes the experience to the next level, beyond the unexpected.”

Together, emotion and design, combining your design elements with emotional intellignece, can keep an audience captivated far beyond conversion.

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