Online Design, Evoking Emotions and Influencing Decisions

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Evoking Emotions through Effective Design

When it comes to our interpretation, “pretty” or “ugly” is determined by many factors. We are not usually aware of them as they influence our sub-conscious reactions. Certain triggers or “aesthetics” in everyday life evoke emotions in us that influence our choices, decisions and reactions. These triggers are not limited to just our vision, but appeal to all of our senses and they happen every minute of every day. To go even further, they can then tap into a personal experience and can influence our emotional responses.

I recently heard the song “Bang Your Head” by Quiet Riot and was instantly transported back to fourth grade, sitting on a bus with my friends going on a field trip to Independence Rock. I was not transported via the Flux Capacitor mind you, but instead that song  evoked the memory of being young and the emotion of being excited.  Suddenly I had the urge to peg roll my pants.

Evoking emotion through music has been used in advertising to sell products for many years, but it is still as influential today as it ever was.

The design of online solutions should also tap these same emotions . All of our senses bring emotion to us instantly, maybe the most powerful being our sight. In the world of web design, the communication to our user is primarily done through sight, but we must consider all of the senses to be aesthetically successful.


Aesthetics is defined as “Philosophical study of the qualities that make something an object of aesthetic interest and of the nature of aesthetic value and judgment.”, or to put it plainly, the study of how something is interpreted via the senses. Aesthetics are mostly subjective, but many sensory stimuli bring about the same emotion or feeling in large groups of people. These broad stimuli are considered very important when designing with usability and user response in mind. These stimuli can be as broad as color, imagery and typography to set a mood or as subtle as designing a button to look more attractive to encourage a click.

The choice is yours…

Obviously there is a lot of thought and science that goes into creating a successful website from the discovery process in the beginning to the testing in the end. We tap emotional response at almost every phase and each phase can be an essay in themselves. For our purposes here we will narrow that down a bit to an important factor in a websites success.

Trust and Credibility

Approximately 1/3 of people that buy online use a search engine to find what they are looking for. [1] Lets assume that we throw brand recognition out the door, so the “thing” we are searching for is something that Amazon doesn’t stock. Once we search for our “thing” we are presented with 10 websites that have our particular “thing” and they are all at a similar price point. Let’s also assume that we have little to no technical knowledge about site security, shopping cart functionality, etc.. We are just an average user looking for our “thing” and we are going to buy it today. How are we going to choose which website to buy this “thing” from?

Let’s talk about trust as a feeling when it comes to doing business with a company online. As doing business online becomes more saturated, trust will be more and more important to users than ever. A good portion of us make travel arrangements, buy insurance, look up health information and even buy vehicles online. What gives us that confidence to make these kinds of purchases without being face to face with someone? According to a study conducted in 2002, nearly half of all site evaluators (46.1%) used visual cues, such as the site’s overall design or look, to assess a site’s credibility. This is color, layout, typography and font size. Below are the complete results,


Design Look
Information Design/Structure
Information Focus
Company Motive
Information Usefulness
Information Accuracy
Name Recognition and Reputation
Information Bias
Writing Tone
Identity of Site Operator
Site Functionality
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