CX Insights

What is Emotion-Driven Web Design?

4 min read

Why is emotion important to a business? When it comes to an emotionally-driven proposition, a human approach can certainly have the desired effect. Take, for instance, an animal shelter advertisement that pulls at the viewer’s heartstrings with images of tiny puppies and kittens. But, when can this emotional exploitation be applied to a rational decision, such as when a consumer must decide between two office software systems with different features at different price points?


The truth is, consumers don’t separate the rational and the irrational. According to a study in the Harvard Business Review, “recent research in neurosciences has found that emotion and cognition (which includes perception of events) are tightly intertwined. Areas of the brain associated with rational thought and decision making have direct connections to areas associated with feelings. They do not exist in separate psychological compartments, and they interact in complex ways.”

Designing for the heart AND the head

Every time a consumer decides to buy from a business, it ultimately stems from an emotional and a rational decision. This realization has led to a change in the way we think about web design too. If tapping into a customer’s emotion is so important to success, then shouldn’t emotion be a priority in the way web pages are designed?

Why design to maximize conversions when in fact designing to maximize emotions is more powerful in the long-term? The best of web design cannot compete if a more emotionally compelling option is out there. But what does the term emotion-driven web design even mean? What does that process look like for web designers, and how does it change the final business outcome?

Here’s what you need to know:

1. It anticipates the user

User-centric design is nothing new, and emotional design focuses on the user better than any other type of design. To elicit an emotional reaction from the consumer, the designer has to be able to anticipate both who will be visiting the website and what they will be trying to accomplish. Once the designer understands the visitor’s needs, they can produce designs that create an emotional reaction that complements that need. This process requires market research and buyer personas to successfully target the audience and ensure that the emotion-driven design encourages return visitors and higher conversions.

2. It is simply great design

If emotion-driven web design is all about creating an emotional response in a site visitor, then the design itself needs to be intuitive, clear, and easy to use. In short, emotion-driven design is great design. If a design is convoluted, the visitor will become confused and often frustrated, abandoning the site for a competitor. While you could consider this to be “emotion-driven web design,” confusion and frustration likely aren’t the emotional reactions the designer was hoping for. Instead, true emotion-driven design needs clarity and intuitiveness to ensure that the design can convey the emotions the designer wants to.


3. It is consistent

Creating an emotional response requires control of each design element. Different color schemes create different emotional reactions, so emotion-driven web design carefully chooses its color palette, as well as other elements, such as its typography, its graphics and images, even the buttons and copy. Each element must come together to form a singular message in order to really drive an emotion home.

4. It boosts recognition

When you recall a fond memory or a favorite film, you likely don’t remember all the specific details. What you do remember are the emotions you felt. In fact, emotions boost memory retention. The more strongly you feel an emotion, the more likely you are to remember it. Emotion-driven web design aims to trigger that strength and create an experience that users are more likely to remember. This focus on emotion helps businesses boost their brand recognition online and help their customers connect an experience to the website.

5. It can produce emotions unrelated to the business

While emotion-driven web design can often be used to promote emotions complementary to a business, such as relaxation for a vacation company or fulfillment for an education platform, that doesn’t have to be the case. Consider the example of office software mentioned earlier. An information-heavy website detailing the features of one piece of scheduling software sounds boring and users can easily look past it. However, if a web designer brightens up the site with fun colors and animations, perhaps they can make the software appear a little more fun and engaging. In a nutshell, motion-driven web design uses consumer’s emotions to create a more memorable product, and it can work in surprising ways.

These 5 points present the heart of emotion-driven web design as well as cover the basics for implementing it. What do you think? Is emotion-driven web design a tactic worth pursuing? Share your thoughts in a comment below.

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Ellie Martin
Ellie Martin is co-founder of Startup Change group. Her works have been featured on Yahoo! , Wisebread, AOL, among others. She currently splits her time between her home office in New York and Israel.