Neuroscience and website design - Known Design Co

Neuroscience and website design

June 30, 2021

Neuroscience saves web designers time and delivers results. This is how.

On the surface, the two fields seem to be chalk and cheese. What you wouldn’t expect is that the practices and foundations of neuroscience are widely used to inform digital and visual design strategy across industries. In other words: some designs just feel right.

You’re not sure exactly why, but that je ne sais quoi just resonates with you. Some call it the x-factor. However, to neuroscientists, it’s no mystery. Through science and an understanding of the human brain, it is possible to understand human behavior and why some things are more visually appealing to us than others. 

A designer mission

So: neuroscience is solving the Mystery of Great Design by doing things like this:

  • Strapping electrodes to heads.
  • Applying ECG machines to chests.
  • And with those cameras that track eye movement.

This may sound like something out of a 1970’s alien abduction movie, but it’s all plain and simple modern science.

When applied correctly, the principles that neuroscientists are uncovering offer a lot of insight into how humans interact with design. Let’s have a quick look at some of their findings and how it can be applied to designing web pages.

Pay attention to where attention goes

By tracking people’s eye movements, neuroscientists have found that almost all people don’t read, but only scan pages, looking to find the information they seek. Also, the average gaze path shows a left-centre bias.

The implications for web design are the following:

  • Important information should stand out. Use bold type fonts, contrasting colours and high impact images to attract attention.
  • Important call-to-actions, conversion buttons or other critical points should be in the middle of the left of web pages.

It’s simple: stick to the good old

Simplicity is king. Too much, too fast and you risk cognitively overloading your visitors. They will repay you by jumping ship to the next website. By reducing the cognitive load of a page, you will keep visitors browsing for longer.

Do this by:

  • Limiting the number of images, headings and buttons on a page.
  • Putting the most important information in prime position Always.
  • Less is more. Think Scandinavian Minimalism – no clutter. Ever.
  • Meeting expectations by placing navigation menus in positions where you know people know they should be.

Button-down on mouse paths

People tend to click buttons close to their mouse pointers. This may sound like the epitome of laziness, but there’s no arguing with science. The implications are that conversion buttons should all be placed in the same general vicinity.

Buttons darting from one side of the screen to the other run the risk of losing a user’s attention. So give them a smooth ride from start to finish. It’s hard enough getting people to websites, the last thing you want to do is lose them due to neurological frustrations.

Colour me red hot

Colour is important. (Anyone who has ever been dropped off at school in a bright yellow car will immediately know what I am talking about.) Colour evokes emotion and that emotion is the result of a neurological response. Harnessing colour associations can create the kind of emotional responses that you ideally want visitors to have.

The internet is full of colour advice. But generally, colours are viewed as Warm, Cool or Neutral:

  • Warm colours evoke a sense of excitement and optimism by ratcheting up the energy level.
  • Cool colours can create a soothing feeling of calmness, relaxation and reassurance.
  • Neutral colours like black, white, brown and grey are typically paired with warm or cool colours to create mood and statement.
  • Ever seen a red or bright green hearse? Exactly!

The wisdom of crowds

Few things create as much trust as a word of mouth referral. Customer testimonials on your website do much the same thing. They also create a sense of intimacy and vulnerability – all hallmarks of trust. Adding photos of projects or logos of well-known brand names will also enforce credibility.

Know the way and you’re half-way there

The best part? You don’t need to be a neuroscientist in order to be a successful website designer.

However, by taking note of these scientific practices, you can learn how to create designs that are more intuitive and that cater to human emotion and reaction. Boom!