Newer posts are loading.
You are at the newest post.
Click here to check if anything new just came in.

August 02 2013


How Color Impacts Your Purchases

A lot of factors are taken into account when a company prepares to sell their items. Things like color, look, feel, and tone all come into play. Many times we don't realize how significant the role of color plays when it comes to our purchases. Kissmetrics recently created an interesting infographic on the way that color impacts our purchases, check it out below and see if you agree:

Do you have some color knowledge or design expertise that you want to share? Why not make an infographic? Once you've compiled the research, it's relatively easy to create an infographic. Check out these packages of design tools to create an infographic in no time:

Tags: psychology

May 06 2013


Get More Clients as a Web Designer with these Social Psychology Tips

Several years ago, I enrolled in a self-improvement course which taught me a concept I found pretty useful to get more clients for my freelancing career.

If you want to “hit” a goal, you need to focus on two things:

  • Trying to hit the goal as much as possible, called goal intensity.
  • Trying to increase your chances for each hit, called goal efficiency.

Let me explain with a simple example. Let’s say your goal is to get ten dates this month. How do you go about doing it? You could spend all your time at the gym, attending self-improvement courses and so on. These things won’t help you get dates directly, but when the time comes to ask a girl out, these things will indirectly help you increase the chances that she’ll say yes.

Nothing will happen if you don’t ask anyone for a date though! The best results will be achieved if you focus on doing both things to indirectly attract dates (goal efficiency) and actually asking for a date (goal intensity).

I Thought this Article would Teach Me how to Get Clients, Not get Dates!


Photo by bigevil600

Actually, getting clients has many thing in common with dating. They’re both about two people, and the first person (in dating, usually the male, while in getting clients, the pitcher) is trying to get the other party to do something (go on a date / accept their proposal for a business cooperation).

If you want to get more clients, the same two principles to “hit a goal” apply; you need both to indirectly improve your chances of getting them (efficiency) and going on and pitching to people (intensity).

Persuasion Skills Help Goal Efficiency (Bigger Conversion Rate for Clients)

And boy, do these persuasion skills help a lot. Knowing some of the most powerful persuasion principles out there can help you craft a better pitch, communicate more effectively with clients, in other words, increase your chances of them saying “YES” to your request.

Selling your web design product or service should be easier.

Explain what Your Design Product or Service is Before Persuading

Many people get so focused on the art of persuasion when trying to get clients to buy their design products that they forgot about one basic thing: explaining what their product/service is in the first place.

If you’ve read any sales letters or landing pages, this trend is pretty obvious. They start with asking you questions like ‘would you like more women’ or ‘would you like more clients’ and explaining why more women/clients are a good thing, how your life would change and so on. What they forget to explain is what they offer in the first place. You often get the impression that you’re buying a ‘magic pill’ that will solve that particular problem.

Catchy phrases like “we bring your designs to life” or “give fresh breath to your new web design” or “experience comes with expertise” don’t help much in explaining what you actually do, and putting that on the front page is just going to confuse first-time visitors.

Read on…but You are Free to Stop


Photo by Capgros

What I just did here is implementing, what (one of the best blogs on psychological research) says is the “easiest persuasion technique that can be implemented in any situation”. This technique, according to a review of 42 studies, has been shown to nearly double the chances someone will say “yes” to your request (that includes requests to your design clients!)

The principle is pretty simple; you are basically re-affirming people’s freedom to choose.

If you’re from the old-school bunch who thought persuasion is about coercing people to do something against their will, do yourself a favor: forget that and try to erase it from your memory. If you want to, of course.

Here are some examples of this technique:

Say you are negotiating a deal with someone you’re trying to persuade to re-sell your web design product. You have presented your product, giving them a crystal clear picture (remember?) of what it is. Then you’ve started giving them various reasons why they should re-sell your product. At the end you may say: I am pretty sure our product will be a great fit for you, please call this number if you’re interested.

Using this technique, you can add a little twist by saying something at the end like:  “but you are free to choose any other product if you’re not satisfied with us” or “do not feel obligated to buy this from us, feel free to weigh your options”.

This may sound like encouraging them not to choose you. Which is totally incorrect. You’re merely reaffirming what’s in their mind already (I’ll take a look at this guy and compare him against his competitors to see who is better).

Imagine if someone said this to you. You’re already starting to see the benefits of a sentence like this. That person will appear to be more trustworthy and credible (one rationalization you may use is: why else would he mention this if he wasn’t sure his product is top notch?) and appear friendlier and non-pushy (would you react positively to someone who repeats all the time ‘my products are the best?’).

How to Best Convey Disadvantages about Your Product

Robert Cialdini, who’s the biggest name in the social psychology field when it comes to persuasion, mentions one concept that will help you convey disadvantages about your product or service without putting yourself at a disadvantaged position.

Let’s do a little experiment, read these two sentences:

  • “Our product is 2 years old, but we are still ahead of our competitors newest products.”
  • “We are still ahead of our competitors newest products, but our product is 2 years old.”

They convey the same information, just in a different way.

The first states the weakness first, and then the strength of the product. The second does the reverse.

Which one do you think is more likely to produce a positive impression? Take your guess.

The right answer is “the first one.”  Studies have shown that when lawyers mention a weakness in their case before the opposite side does, jurors view that lawyer as more trustworthy and honest.

There’s just one drawback to this approach: When mentioning your weakness, don’t go to extremes. This works for minor weaknesses. Saying “Our product hasn’t been updated for 10 years, but we’re still ahead…” is going to make you look dumb. Keep a good balance.

How we applied this when selling our design services: When we used to sell logos, one of our weaknesses was the delivery time. We couldn’t deliver in less than 10 days, and many of our competitors could. This was clearly a disadvantage. So instead of just saying it plainly, we said “We can’t deliver the logo in less than 10 days, but that means we have more time to focus on the details and the specifications you gave us” or “but that means we deliver more detailed and better logos than our competitors”. We were telling the truth, since 10 days really gave us more time to process in our minds what the client actually wanted, and with each new day, new ideas emerged to make the logo better.

People Compare Everything all the Time


We can’t help it. If you sell a web design service, people will compare it with other web design services. If you sell a product related to web design, people will compare it to other products in the same category.

Now, you can either use this to your advantage or leave it up to random factors to decide how people compare you to others.

One way to use this relativity principle  is to add various options for your products/services. If you sell web design services, you can offer something like a “light package”, a “small business package” and a “big business package”. This way you’ll “trick” people into comparing your products with each other, instead of focusing on comparing them with other products/services.

That is the first step. The second step is to make one of those options an obvious choice. A tactic many magazines use is to offer a print subscription for, say, $110, offer an online edition for, say, $90 and then offer print+online for $110. The third option is probably the best choice since with the “bundle” package you’re getting the online version for just $20 instead of $90 alone. Or take the famous example of the Economist who used to offer a print edition for the lowest price, an online edition for a more expensive price and then print+online for the same price as the online version. Of course, nobody chose the “online only” version and there was no rational reason for it to be there. But that option helped quadruple the sales of their print+online option.

Remember, people compare everything that can be compared in a category. If you sell a web-design product or service, offer 1 or 2 inferior options and then a third option which is an “obvious choice”. If you charge by the hour, for example (say you charge $30 per hour) you can have an option where they could pay $30 and get 1 hour worth of service, 5 hours for $130 and 7 hours for $150. The 7 hours package would seem to be the obvious choice, since for an extra $20 they get an extra two hours.

A Trip to Rome or a Trip to Paris? A Static Site or a CMS-Based Site?


Imagine someone offered you to pay you a trip and you either had to choose Rome or Paris. They’re both appealing places and for most people it’s difficult to choose between them.

Psychologists have found a way to make you more inclined to choose one of these options, however. If you simply add an inferior third option like “Paris without breakfast” (assuming you had breakfast included in the first two arrangements), you are suddenly more likely to see Paris as the more attractive option than Rome or the “inferior” Paris. This is a powerful principle that can be used in web design.

Do people who buy from you face indecision somewhere in the buying process? Maybe they’re unsure whether they should get your package with five static pages for $300 or four pages on a content management system for the same price.

One way you can encourage them to choose an option you’d like is to add an inferior package for one of these 2 options. If you want people to buy more of the content management system package, add a “three pages for $270″ option. Or “four pages on a CMS without installation assistance for $290″ (assuming you offered installation assistance). Your customers will probably say: Installation assistance for only $10? What a bargain!

I ALWAYS offer more than one option when selling something. When we used to sell logos, we used to offer extras like a higher resolution of the logo, up to X revisions for a specific price and so on. If you’re selling a design package, you could tweak your offer based on the number of revisions you offer. A package with three revisions for $150. A package with ten revisions for $170. Make sure there is that one package that’s CLEARLY inferior to the others that nobody will buy. Your competitors will wonder “why the heck did he put that stupid choice there”, and you’ll be smiling all the way to the bank having used one of the most powerful psychological principles which profoundly influences human behavior.

Sponsored post

May 04 2012


You Design It, They Do It


What if someone came to you and said, “I’ve designed this great website, but people don’t stay on it. Why?” How would you respond? Would you ask them whether they have done extensive A/B testing? Would you recommend testing the usability of the website?

People like to test a number of metrics to see why people are not staying on a website. I think sometimes we spend so much time focusing on analytics that we throw common sense out the window. Don’t get me wrong—analytics are a powerful tool for improving a website. But often the problem is right in front of your face.

What if you simply told them that the reason people are leaving is because of the way they designed the website? How mind-blowing an idea is that? Doesn’t that change your entire perspective on the design? It could be the greatest thing in the world, but what if you really designed something to chase people away or looking at it another way: What if you have designed it so there is no incentive to stay?

Feedback… Om Nom Nom

I love getting feedback on the stuff that I write; yet my website has no comments section. Is it reasonable for me to wonder why people don’t leave feedback? I could tell people that there is a forum on the website where they can leave feedback, but that means they would have to register, get approved and then remember what they wanted to write. The website isn’t designed for instant feedback.

When I didn’t have any social media widgets at the end of a post, sharing of articles dropped over 80%. It wasn’t fair for me to assume that people would remember to share something they liked or that if they were on the fence they would make an effort to do so. If I really wanted people to retweet what I write, I would have to guide them to doing so by putting a retweet widget at the end of everything. Maybe I could even add some text asking them to retweet if they like what they read.

The point is that, if I expect a person to take an action, I would have to design the process for taking that action right into the website itself. I should never assume that a person who is interacting with my website will automatically take that action. Would a driver stop at an intersection that had no stop sign?

As designers we have to understand that the interface we create dictates the action of the people using it.

If you run a website and hope to get a lot of comments, then the best way to go about that is to make posting a comment as easy as possible. Of course, doing so could lead to people leaving all types of comments, both useful and not. A great example of designing how you want users to interact with a product is Pinterest.

The Pinterest Way

Most comment blocks on Pinterest are filled with simple comments. The content doesn’t lend itself to much discussion, but Pinterest obviously wants users to engage in other social interactions, and it has designed the product to make that easy to do. You can easily like, comment, repin and share any image that you come across, and all of this makes the content spread quickly throughout the network. This network effect is one of the main reasons for Pinterest’s explosive growth over the past couple of months.


Pinterest made an interesting decision in requiring all users to connect to the website through either Facebook or Twitter. This mean that real names (usually) are tied to users; because of this, the quality of stuff that people share is generally high. Allowing everyone to hide behind fake identities would have resulted in a much different experience.

But the system wasn’t designed that way; it was designed so that people who post quality content (or at least content that others in their circle like) would become popular. Thus, rather than turning into a website full of animated GIFs and Web comics, the website has become a valuable resource to its community—mainly because it was designed to function that way.

Maybe It’s Not That Simple

I realize that simply saying that a product was designed to do what it is meant to do makes fixing problems seem like the easiest thing in the world. Of course, as you dig deeper into how to improve a design, you will have more variables to keep in mind; but always be aware of the simple fact that people will do what the design of a website lets them do.

Why did Twitter evolve beyond being a place where people just leave status updates? Part of it has to do with the tiny microcopy that was above the status update field. Originally it said “What are you doing?” and this of course led to people talking about their breakfast. After some time they changed it to “What’s happening?” which helped guide the people using the service to post about what is happening around them.

Why was Digg being gamed for so long? Because the design encouraged it. Simple. Executives at Yahoo might sit around a table asking why users aren’t using its search engine? Does the design of the website look like it is meant for search or even encourage it? Do you think Google execs sit around a table asking why people don’t use its search engine when they hit its main page? The design of Pinterest encourages users to continually scroll down the page looking at more and more pins; it is designed to keep you on the website.

Do you want your users to do something specific? Then design your website so that they do it.

It could be the greatest thing in the world, but what if you really designed something to chase people away or looking at it another way: What if you have designed it so there is no incentive to stay?

© Paul Scrivens for Smashing Magazine, 2012.

November 28 2011


Easier Is Better Than Better



In his book, The Paradox of Choice, Barry Schwartz comes to an interesting conclusion involving human choice.

“People choose not on the basis of what’s most important, but on what’s easiest to evaluate.”

Common sense would dictate that if you were given a list of choices, you would choose the one that is most important to you, when in reality humans usually choose the one that is easiest for them to understand and evaluate. Very often we do so because we don’t have the time to put in the research necessary to make an informed decision. Politicians are rarely elected based on the majority of people doing research on their background and the policies they support. They are elected for the fact that people can relate to the message they are spreading and because we have heard of them before.

When it comes to our own designs, we imagine people being able to make informed decisions on what the next step should be. However, they are already making 400+ decisions throughout the rest of the day that are likely more important than what they will deal with in our design.

Do you think most people realize there are benefits to driving a manual transmission car over an automatic? Do you think they care? Automatic is easier to pick up so why bother with any other choice? How often do we stay in relationships that we shouldn’t, simply because it’s easier to just deal with it than face the repercussions of having to confront the person?

Have you ever been to In ‘N Out Burger? I’ve heard great stories about this place and their mythical burgers and fries. The catch behind this place is that they have a very limited menu. You order a Double Double, cheeseburger or hamburger. You can add fries, milkshake and beverage to that if you wish. That’s all of your options (unless you know about the secret menu). Now, I’ve been there and tasted their food and it’s good, but it is not much different than Wendy’s. The appeal of the place is that your choices are limited. It’s easy to order there because you don’t have to decide which type of chicken sandwich you feel is the best option for you. In ‘N Out makes the fast food experience easy for you. Having it your way is not the way we want.

In 'N Out Burger
In ‘N Out is known for their very limited menu. Too many choices are distracting and require more time for making a final decision what to order. Image source is an online store with a twist. Instead of browsing through hundreds or thousands of items, you are offered only one item a day. If you like it, you buy it and if you don’t, you wait until tomorrow to see what is going to show up. The site is successful and yet the logic of it all seems backwards. However, if I’m running a store, does it really matter whether I’m selling 100 units of 1 item or 100 different items for 1 unit at a time? Woot makes the shopping experience easy by making our choice simply “yes” or “no”.

How much less fun would Angry Birds be if you had to select the birds you could use before each level? Taking away that choice and letting us focus on how to use the birds we are given makes the game much more enjoyable.

By not choosing which bird to play with in each level, one can focus more on how to use them. Image source

How many of your friends choose to buy a computer for their home simply because they use the same one at work? Since they have been using it at work, it has become easy for them to use. Doesn’t mean it is the better computer  —  it is simply the one that is easiest for them. Our selections don’t have to be the best choices  —  they just have to be ones that we are okay with.

How often do you come across a site that offers you better features than their competitors, but they aren’t as easy to use. There is no reason to switch over to a service that is harder to use even if they have more features. If the features aren’t there to make my life easier then what good does the service do me?

Back when image hosting was cool, the sites that won were the ones that allowed you to upload an image without having to register or login. You simply uploaded your image and you were done. Imgur is a great example of this and has now become one of the most popular image hosting sites in the world. That doesn’t mean sites like Flickr couldn’t thrive  —  they just had to work much harder to achieve more users and show that going through the hassle of registering was indeed worth it.

User Settings And Choice

In a recent article, Jared Spool did a study that found that only 5% of users changed their default settings in MS Word. Being a computer nerd, this surprised me because I like to dive into the settings of all of my applications to see what I can tweak. The large majority of people don’t seem to want to tweak though  —  they just want to use the application:

“We embarked on a little experiment. We asked a ton of people to send us their settings file for Microsoft Word. At the time, MS Word stored all the settings in a file named something like config.ini, so we asked people to locate that file on their hard disk and email it to us. Several hundred folks did just that.

We then wrote a program to analyze the files, counting up how many people had changed the 150+ settings in the applications and which settings they had changed.

What we found was really interesting. Less than 5% of the users we surveyed had changed any settings at all. More than 95% had kept the settings in the exact configuration that the program installed in.”

It is great to provide the user with the ability to make changes, but settings aren’t a must-have feature. Building a great product that just works should be priority number one and once you begin to understand what settings might be tweaked, should you then start to think about adding a settings panel.

Users assume you are giving them the settings that are best for them right off the bat. If you aren’t, then they might view your product as a failure.

The Paradox Of Choice

The paradox of choice says that the more options available to an individual, the harder it becomes to make a selection. For example, if there are free samples of jam being given out at the store, you are more likely to get people to buy a jar of jam when only six selections are available as opposed to 24. More choices don’t make the selection process easier for people, but having no choices takes away some of the freedom they believe they have.

Collection of crocs
According to Barry Schwartz, it is much easier to find your pair of crocs if there are fewer color options available. Image source

When deciding on which of the new iPhones you should get, you can either get it in black or white and three different memory options. Add in multiple carriers though and the choice starts to become a little more complicated.

If a client tells you that you can do their design any way you choose, it is more difficult than having to do a design with constraints because your options are endless. We need constraints, limited choices, to be built into everything that we do. This makes decision making easier and the benefit of this is an easier design to use.

If somehow you can make the easiest product and the best product in the industry, you have yourself a winner. You have to consider how many choices we are given daily so it’s in your best interest to limit the ones your customers have to make because there is a good chance it isn’t the most important decision of the day for them.

What this means is that the design that is easiest to evaluate (less options to choose from) will win most of the time. Make your copy straight to the point. Don’t waste your time on graphics that don’t drive the point home. Funny t-shirts and bumper stickers are effective because they are easy to evaluate. I have a hard enough time picking my outfit in the morning  —  don’t make me try to decide which one of the 250 default avatars I should use.

What Do You Think?

This article is part of our Opinion Column section where we provide a platform for designers and developers to raise their voice and discuss their opinion with the community. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.


© Paul Scrivens for Smashing Magazine, 2011.

November 25 2011


Where the "Black" in Black Friday Came From

It’s here! Some consider it a plague, some consider it a shopaholics dream, and some people just want a new pair of socks at rock-bottom prices. That’s right, the full contact sport of Black Friday has returned for another year. Which brings me to wonder, why do they call this day of awesome deals and big crowds black? Here are a few interesting theories I've pulled together…

Original credit for the phrase is given to the plunging gold prices way back in 1864 that started a panic in the stock market, thus a very black Friday indeed.

(photos: source | source)

Then, in the late 1960s, Philadelphia newspapers borrowed the phrase to describe the dark masses of shoppers crowding the stores. Sounds kind of creepy I know, but let’s imagine them wearing festive holiday colors and the picture isn’t so bleak.

Later on, this idea was clarified to mean that the crowds increased profits, thus the black ink on the accounting balance sheets is why it is called Black Friday.


Tweak this theory again and black now represents the day retailers make a profit or break the bank. Ominous, I know.


Whatever the origin, by the time the 1990s rolled around, Black Friday had turned into a nationwide retail holiday (albeit unofficial). Since then its fame has grown, and now it is the season’s biggest shopping day of the year (says market research firm ShopperTrak).


Whether you brave the crowds, hide at home, or enjoy a regular day at work (with a  little crowd control), be safe and have a happy Black Friday from all of us at COLOURlovers!


November 17 2011


October 27 2011


September 22 2011


September 15 2011


July 07 2011


May 26 2011


RAW COLOR - Photography

The work of Daniera ter Haar & Christoph Brach, who have become better known by the name of one of their projects, Raw Color, is highly prismatic, covering the spectrum between art, design, photography and color research by mixing the powerful colors of vegetables, innovative color harvesting processes, with unique applications for print and textiles. Each project is created with an astute design sense and captured with stunningly composed photography.

The Eindhoven, Netherlands based team uses color as the 'connection between their different practices' posing questions like, 'what is the nature of a color and what is the connection to its physical state?' This post focuses on their use of photography. In a pervious post we covered their  research on vegetable pigments, and we will cover their design work in an upcoming post.

Stuffed - Peep

This photo series is playing with the perception of stuffed birds. The written word is a reference to the former voice signature of each bird, the peeping. In Ornithology (the study of birds) this is specified by each bird species. These animals being exposed to the camera are now nothing more than an image of themselves, they are no longer flying or whistling. Via a mix of colours, letters and birds evolves an image from universal language. Our starting point was the historical collection stuffed animals from MEC in Eindhoven. 'Peep' is presented at the exhibition 'Stuffed' during the Dutch Design Week 2008, were all the participating designers are inspired from the stuffed animals, translated into their own designs. After this exhibition 'Stuffed' went on tour and was on show at Salone del Mobile, Milano 2009 and at the NAI, Maastricht 2009.

cawcawk hu_hu

Photos for Sight Unseen

A  still life series that tries to capture the characteristics and associations of certain color shades. For example, reddish is represented as tensed, explosive and dynamic, skin shades are shown by softness and purity. The objects used are a part of our inspiration archive that is permanently growing through the years. We created the images for the New York based online design magazine Sight Unseen. After their studio visit and a long chat with Jill and Monica, we decided to make a photoseries that visualises our approach and fascination about colours, materials and their character.

we decided to make a photoseries that visualises our approach and fascination about colours, materials and their character.

This is Basic

Planes, shadows, hues and reflections are subject of this research. For this study we chose paper because this material had all the appropriate qualities we were looking for. Paper is both flexible and stiff , it has colour, structure, it reflects and absorbs light. Besides that, it is one of the most natural materials you can work with. By means of folding and cutting, two-dimensional sheets are transformed into three-dimensional shapes that form abstract images and shaded illusions.

Part of  the 'This is Basic' photoseries, the focus is on the structure and spatiality of paper by means of shadow, reflection, lines and color arising as abstract images. Through exposure color gradienst and reflections which normally stay unnoticed appear. Paper doesn't look like paper anymore. The photos were exhibited at the exhibition Lift Off, during the Dutch Design Week 2008. Curated by Freek Lomme / Onomatopee and Dave Keune

Through exposure, color gradients and reflections which normally stay unnoticed appear.

Invertuals 2

Invertuals is a photo series created for the group Dutch Invertuals. All the participants are covered up with big foam volumes. Through the characteristics of the material; the stiffness, volumes, mat structures and the usage of their minty colours, we created these statues.

Flow – Kleurenwaaier

"Flow" was a group exhibition during Dutch Design Week 2010, created by a group of independent designers. As part of the organization putting on the exhibition it was our job was to design all the communication materials. Flow was about movement, transformation and change. We were searching for an image giving the suggestion of motion and covering the nature of the exposed pieces. In the end we added colour-charts (Kleurenwaaiers in dutch) on a drilling machine and photographed the turning movement with a long exposure time, creating a colour movement in the shape of rings, turning round and round. The contrast of the solid machine with transparent rings, blended the two worlds in one object. A series of different colour-rings on drilling machines, were used for posters and flyers.

We attached colour-charts to a drill and photographed the movement with a long exposure, creating colour movement in the shape of rings.

March 15 2011


Why User Experience Cannot Be Designed

Advertisement in Why User Experience Cannot Be Designed
 in Why User Experience Cannot Be Designed  in Why User Experience Cannot Be Designed  in Why User Experience Cannot Be Designed

A lot of designers seem to be talking about user experience (UX) these days. We’re supposed to delight our users, even provide them with magic, so that they love our websites, apps and start-ups. User experience is a very blurry concept. Consequently, many people use the term incorrectly. Furthermore, many designers seem to have a firm (and often unrealistic) belief in how they can craft the user experience of their product. However, UX depends not only on how something is designed, but also other aspects. In this article, I will try to clarify why UX cannot be designed.

Heterogeneous Interpretations of UX

I recently visited the elegant website of a design agency. The website looked great, and the agency has been showcased several times. I am sure it delivers high-quality products. But when it presents its UX work, the agency talks about UX as if it were equal to information architecture (IA): site maps, wireframes and all that. This may not be fundamentally wrong, but it narrows UX to something less than what it really is.

The perception might not be representative of our industry, but it illustrates that UX is perceived in different ways and that it is sometimes used as a buzzword for usability (for more, see Hans-Christian Jetter and Jens Gerken’s article “A simplified model of user experience for practical application”). But UX is not only about human-computer interaction (HCI), usability or IA, albeit usability probably is the most important factor that shapes UX.

Some research indicates that perceptions of UX are different. Still, everyone tends to agree that UX takes a broader approach to communication between computer and human than traditional HCI (see Effie Lai-Chong Law et al’s article “Understanding, scoping and defining user experience: a survey approach”). Whereas HCI is concerned with task solution, final goals and achievements, UX goes beyond these. UX takes other aspects into consideration as well, such as emotional, hedonic, aesthetic, affective and experiential variables. Usability in general can be measured, but many of the other variables integral to UX are not as easy to measure.

Hassenzahl’s Model Of UX

Hassenzahls-model2 in Why User Experience Cannot Be Designed
Hassenzahl’s “Model of User Experience”.

Several models of UX have been suggested, some of which are based on Hassenzahl’s model. This model assumes that each user assigns some attributes to a product or service when using it. As we will see, these attributes are different for each individual user. UX is the consequences of these attributes plus the situation in which the product is used.

The attributes can all be grouped into four main categories: manipulation, identification, stimulation and evocation. These categories can, on a higher level, be grouped into pragmatic and hedonic attributes. Whereas the pragmatic attributes relate to the practical usage and functions of the product, the hedonic attributes relate to the user’s psychological well-being. Understanding the divide can help us to understand how to design products with respect to UX, and the split also clarifies why UX itself cannot be designed.


Hammer-sm in Why User Experience Cannot Be Designed
Hassenzahl explains the hedonic and pragmatic qualities with a hammer metaphor. The pragmatic qualities are the function and a way for us to use that function. However, a hammer can also have hedonic qualities; for instance, if it is used to communicate professionalism or to elicit memories. (Image: Velo Steve)

In this model, the pragmatic attributes relate to manipulation of the software. Essentially, manipulation is about the core functionalities of a product and the ways to use those functions. Typically, we relate these attributes to usability. A consequence of pragmatic qualities is satisfaction. Satisfaction emerges if a user uses a product or service to achieve certain goals and the product or service fulfills those goals.

Examples of attributes that are typically assigned to websites (and software in general) are “supporting,” “useful,” “clear” and “controllable.” The purpose of a product should be clear, and the user should understand how to use it. To this end, manipulation is often considered the most important attribute that contributes to the UX.


Although manipulation is important, a product can have other functions as well. The first of these is called identification. Think about it: many of the items connected to you right now could probably be used to get an idea of who you are and what you care about, even though some of them would be more important or descriptive than others. The secondary function of an object is to communicate your identity to others. Therefore, to fulfill this function, objects need to enable users to express themselves.

The growth of social media can be explained by this identification function. Previously, we used personal websites to tell the world about our hobbies and pets. Now, we use social media.

Facebook, blogs and many other online services help us to communicate who we are and what we do; the products are designed to support this identification need. MySpace, for example, takes advantage of this identification function; it allows users to customize their profiles in order to express themselves. WordPress and other platforms let bloggers select themes and express themselves through content, just as users do through status updates on Facebook, Twitter and all the other social platforms out there.


Gmail-sm-3 in Why User Experience Cannot Be Designed
Gmail notifies users when they forget to attach a file to an email.

The Pareto principle, also known as the 80-20 rule, states that 80% of the available resources are typically used by 20% of the operations. It has been suggested, therefore, that in traditional usability engineering, features should have to fight to be included, because the vast majority of them are rarely used anyway.

This is necessarily not the case with UX, because rarely used functions can fill a hedonic function called stimulation. Rarely used functions can stimulate the user and satisfy the human urge for personal development and more skills. Certain objects could help us in doing so by providing insights and surprises.

From this perspective, unused functions should not be dropped from software merely because they are used once in a blue moon. If they are kept, they could one day be discovered by a user and give them a surprise and positive user experience. As a result, the user might think “What a brilliant application this is!” and love it even more.

In fact, this is exactly what I thought (and found myself tweeting) when Gmail notified me that I had forgotten to attach the file I’d mentioned in an email. If you do a Twitter search for “gmail attachment,” you’ll probably find many others who feel the same.

Furthermore, I think “Pretty cool!” when YouTube enhances its presence by modifying its logo on Super Bowl Sunday (or Valentine’s Day). I also discovered something new when MailChimp’s monkey whispered, “Psst, Helge, I heard a rumor…” and linked me to a Bananarama song on YouTube. There are many examples, but the best “stimulating” functions are probably those that are unexpected but still welcome (like the Gmail notification).


Souvenirs-sm in Why User Experience Cannot Be Designed
Souvenirs tend to have weak manipulative qualities, but they can be evocative when they elicit memories. (Image: meddygarnet)

The fourth function that a product can have, according to Hassenzahl’s model, is evocation, which is about recalling the past through memory. We enjoy talking and thinking about the good old days (even yesterday), and we want objects to help us with this. Even weird, dusty and practically useless souvenirs (with weak manipulative qualities) have evocative function because they help us to recall the past.

In design, we can certainly give a website a vintage look and feel to remind us of our childhood, high school or the ’60s… or the ’30s. But even websites with a modern and minimalist design can have evocative attributes. For instance, don’t Facebook and Flickr (by way of their users and your friends) provide you with a huge number of pictures from the past, some of which are highly evocative?

Thus, UX Cannot Be Designed

Mailchimp-sm in Why User Experience Cannot Be Designed
The MailChimp monkey’s words will probably appeal to some users more than others.

Having said all this, why is it argued that UX cannot be designed? It’s because UX depends not only on the product itself, but on the user and the situation in which they use the product.

You Cannot Design the User

Users are different. Some are able to easily use a website to perform their task. Other simply are not. The stimulation that a product provides depends on the individual user’s experience with similar products. Users compare websites and have different expectations. Furthermore, they have different goals, and so they use what you have made in different modes.

Think about it: when judging the food and service at a restaurant, you will always compare what you experience to other restaurants you have been to. They have shaped your experience. Your companions compare it to their previous experiences, which are certainly different from yours. The same goes for software, websites and apps. Evocative qualities vary even more, simply because all users have a unique history and unique memories.

You Cannot Design the Situation

UX also depends on the context in which the product is used. A situation goes beyond what can be designed. It can determine why a product is being used, and it can shape a user’s expectations.

On some occasions, you may want to explore and take advantage of the wealth of features in WordPress. In other situations, the same functions may make things too complex for you. On some occasions, you may find it totally cool that the MailChimp monkey tells you randomly that, “It’s five o’clock somewhere,” but in other cases it would feel entirely weird and annoying, because you are using the application in a different mode.

Furthermore, UX evolves over time. The first time a user tries an application, they may be confused by it and have a slightly negative experience. Later, when they get used to it and discover its wealth of features and potential and learn how to handle it, they might get emotionally attached to it, and the UX would become more positive.

We Can Design For UX

Rollercoaster in Why User Experience Cannot Be Designed
Are roller coasters fun, thrilling and exciting or just breathtakingly scary? It’s hard to tell. (Image: foilman)

Many designers label themselves “UX designers.” This implies great confidence in the capabilities of the designer; it suggests that the user experience can be designed. But as explained, we cannot do this. Instead, we can design for UX. We can design the product or service, and we can have a certain kind of user experience in mind when we design it. However, there is no guarantee that our product will be appreciated the way we want it to be (again, see Hassenzahl). We can shape neither our users’ expectations nor the situation in which they use what we have designed.

It is certainly possible to have a fairly good idea of the potential ways a user will judge what we make, as Oliver Reichenstein points out. Movies, rhetoric and branding demonstrate as much: they predict certain experiences, and they often achieve their goals, too.

However, a thrilling movie is probably more thrilling in the theater than at home, because the physical environment (i.e. the UX that shapes the situation) is different. In the same way, the effectiveness of an advertisement will always depend on the context in which it is consumed and the critical sense and knowledge of the consumer (i.e. the user’s prior experience). The commercials are designed to elicit certain experiences, but their level of success does not depend solely on the commercials themselves.

The difference between designing UX and designing for UX is subtle but important. It can help us understand and remind us of our limitations. It can help us think of how we want the UX to be.

It has been suggested, for instance, that UX is the sum of certain factors, such as fun, emotion, usability, motivation, co-experience, user involvement and user engagement (for more, see Marianna Obrist et al’s article “Evaluating user-generated content creation across contexts and cultures”). In turn, we must address some of these factors when we design for UX, depending on how we want our product to be perceived. If we want an application to be fun, then we need to add some features that will entertain; a joke, a challenging quiz, a funny video, a competitive aspect or something else. We should keep in mind, however, that, as designers, we can never really predict that the application will be perceived as fun by the user. Users have different standards, and sometimes they aren’t even willing to be entertained.

Extra Credit: How To Design For UX

Facets-of-ux in Why User Experience Cannot Be Designed
Peter Morville’s “Facets of User Experience.” (Image: Semantic Studios)

Understand UX

If we want to design for UX, then we need to understand what UX is all about. For example, knowing which variables make users judge a product might be advantageous, and Hassenzahl’s UX model is one such model for this.

Other models have been suggested as well, such as Peter Morville’s “seven facets of user experience.” Here, UX is split into useful, usable, desirable, findable, accessible, credible and valuable. As you may have noticed, these facets fit Hassenzahl’s model pretty well: useful, usable, findable, credible  and accessible could all be considered as pragmatic (i.e. utilitarian and usability-related) qualities, while desirable and valuable would qualify as hedonic (well-being-related) qualities.

As mentioned, UX has also been viewed as the sum of particular factors. Other models have been suggested as well, some of which are linked to at the bottom of this article.

Understand Users

Following this, we need to understand our users. Traditional methods are certainly applicable, such as user research with surveys, interviews and observation. Also, personas have been suggested as a means of designing for UX, as have UX patterns. Smashing Magazine has already presented a round-up of methods.

Exceed Expectations

Finally, give users what they want — and a little more. In addition to enabling users to use your service effectively and efficiently, make them also think, “Wow, this application is genius.” Exceed their expectations desirably. If you do so, they will use your website or app not because they have to but because they want to.

Other Resources

To learn more about UX, you may want to read the following:


© Helge Fredheim for Smashing Magazine, 2011. | Permalink | Post a comment | Smashing Shop | Smashing Network | About Us
Post tags: psychology, usability, ux

December 16 2010


How do Colors Affect Purchases? - Infographic

Color impacts our perception of products, websites and retail experiences, but how much influence do colors have on our behavior as consumers? We know that the power of color is very much in the eye of the shopper, attached to cultural and personal associations. So when we read about how 'red makes people do this' while 'blue makes people do that,' we know to take it with a grain of our own knowledge that information is only as good as the data and conditions it is based on. To answer the question posed in the first sentence: we don't know. If you know, please share it with us.

The main point KISSmetrics tries to make with this infographic is that color is the strongest and most persuasive visual cue... What do you think? are you persuaded by colors? Is this infographic just recycling the same old unproven information? Are we making it worse by re-recycling (we've done it before)? Check out the sources for yourself, they might be able to help you make those color choices, or they could just simply be an interesting read. You can also look at the discussions about this infographic going on in the comments at KISSmetrics & Huffington Post.

So, if you can't trust the color data what can you trust? Yourself, your customers and your own findings. Keep it visual: if it looks good on your products and it looks good with other colors you've already decided on (i.e. existing website, business identity) then it will look good to your customers.

I think the best colors to use are those that reflect the personality of the products and the people behind the products. If you make products for likeminded people, and you're one of those people, chances are those people will share your taste in color. And if you really want to consider the thoughts of others (which is a smart and nice thing to do) A/B test your colors and let your own data, based on your own customers, help you decide.

Infographic Sources

The Psychology of Web Performance

The Psychology of Color in Marketing by June Cambell

The Effects of Store Environment on Shopping Behaviors: A Critical review by Shun Yin Lam

The Profit of Color by Color Marketing Group


Large Version

The color love in this post was sponsored by HP.

November 29 2010


Persuasion Triggers in Web Design

Advertisement in Persuasion Triggers in Web Design
 in Persuasion Triggers in Web Design  in Persuasion Triggers in Web Design  in Persuasion Triggers in Web Design

How do you make decisions? If you’re like most people, you’ll probably answer that you pride yourself on weighing the pros and cons of a situation carefully and then make a decision based on logic. You know that other people have weak personalities and are easily swayed by their emotions, but this rarely happens to you.

You’ve just experienced the fundamental attribution error — the tendency to believe that other people’s behaviour is due to their personality (“Josh is late because he’s a disorganised person”) whereas our behaviour is due to external circumstances (“I’m late because the directions were useless”).

Cognitive biases like these play a significant role in the way we make decisions so it’s not surprising that people are now examining these biases to see how to exploit them in the design of web sites. I’m going to use the term ‘persuasion architects’ to describe designers who knowingly use these techniques to influence the behaviour of users. (Many skilled designers already use some of these psychological techniques intuitively — but they wouldn’t be able to articulate why they have made a particular design choice. The difference between these designers and persuasion architects is that persuasion architects use these techniques intentionally).

There are 7 main weapons of influence in the persuasion architect’s arsenal:

How do persuasion architects apply these principles to influence our behaviour on the web?


“I like to return favours.”

This principle tells us that if we feel we have been done a favour, we will want to return it. If somebody gives you a gift, invites you to a party or does you a good turn, you feel obliged to do the same at some future date.

Persuasion architects exploit this principle by giving users small gifts — a sample chapter from a book, a regular newsletter or just useful information — in the knowledge that users will feel a commitment to offer something in return.

Free-sample1 in Persuasion Triggers in Web Design
Fig. 1: Book publishers offer free sample chapters in the hope that you’ll reciprocate the favour and buy the book.

That ‘something in return’ need not be a purchase (not yet, anyway). Persuasion architects know that they need to contact prospective customers on several occasions before they become an actual customer — this is why regular newsletters are a staple offering in the persuasion architect’s toolkit. So in return they may simply ask for a referral, or a link to a web site, or a comment on a blog. And note the emphasis on ‘ask’. Persuasion architects are not shy of asking for the favour that you ‘owe’ them. (By the way, if you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it on Twitter!).

Seth-small in Persuasion Triggers in Web Design
Fig. 2: Seth Godin knows how to leverage the principle of reciprocation. This comes from one of Seth’s free PDFs and you’ll notice he’s not shy of asking you to return the favour. Large view


“I like to do what I say.”

This principle tells us that we like to believe that our behaviour is consistent with our beliefs. Once you take a stand on something that is visible to other people, you suddenly feel a drive to maintain that point of view to appear reliable and constant.

A familiar example of this in action is when comments on a blog degrade into a flame war. Commentators are driven to justify their earlier comments and often become even more polarised in their positions.

Flamewar in Persuasion Triggers in Web Design
Fig. 3: contains many examples of people justifying their commitment to comments they have made on a blog posting.

Persuasion architects apply this principle by asking for a relatively minor, but visible, commitment from you. They know that if they can get you to act in a particular way, you’ll soon start believing it. For example, an organisation may ask you to ‘Like’ one of their products on Facebook to watch a video or get access to particular content. Once this appears in your NewsFeed, you have made a public commitment to the product and feel more inclined to support it.

Oxfam-facebook in Persuasion Triggers in Web Design
Fig. 4: Oxfam uses the principle of commitment in the knowledge that a small change in behaviour will lead to larger changes later on.

Social Proof

“I go with the flow.”

This principle tells us that we like to observe other people’s behaviour to judge what’s normal, and then we copy it.

Persuasion architects apply this principle by showing us what other people are doing on their web sites. For example, researchers at Columbia University set up a web site that asked people to listen to, rate and download songs by unsigned bands. Some people just saw the names of the songs and bands, while others — the “social influence” group — also saw how many times the songs had been downloaded by other people.

In this second group, the most popular songs were much more popular (and the least popular songs were less popular) than in the independent condition, showing that people’s behaviour was influenced by the crowd. Even more surprisingly, when they ran the experiment again, the particular songs that became “hits” were different, showing that social influence didn’t just make the hits bigger but also made them more unpredictable.

Proof in Persuasion Triggers in Web Design
Fig. 5: 1 million people can’t be wrong (from

Some familiar examples of social proof on the web are, “People who shopped for this product also looked at…” feature and Amazon’s, “What do customers ultimately buy after viewing this item?”.

Persuasion architects also exploit this principle in the power of defaults. They know that the default setting of a user interface control has a powerful influence over people’s behaviour. We tend to see the default setting as a ‘recommended’ option — the option that most other people would choose in our situation. There are many examples of this being used as a black hat usability technique, where additional items (like insurance) are sneaked into the user’s basket.

Fig-6 in Persuasion Triggers in Web Design
Fig. 6: When you book a flight, RyanAir sneak travel insurance into your basket too.


“I’m more likely to act on information if it’s communicated by an expert.”

This principle is about influencing behaviour through credibility. People are more likely to take action if the message comes from a credible and authoritative source. That’s why you’ll hear people name dropping and it’s also what drives retweets on Twitter.

Fig-7 in Persuasion Triggers in Web Design
Fig. 7: A tweet from @smashingmag is likely to be retweeted because the brand has such authority.

For design guidance, we can turn to the Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab (founded by B.J. Fogg) as they have developed a number of guidelines for the credibility of web sites. These guidelines are based on research with over 4,500 people and are based on peer-reviewed, scientific research. Thanks to their research, we know that you should highlight the expertise in your organisation and in the content and services you provide; show that honest and trustworthy people stand behind your site; and avoid errors of all types, no matter how small they seem.

Persuasion architects exploit this principle by providing glowing testimonials on their web site. If it’s an e-commerce site they will have highly visible icons showing the site is secure and can be trusted. If the site includes a forum, they’ll give people the opportunity to rate their peers: for example, some web forums (like Yahoo! Answers) let users vote up (or down) answers to posted questions. The top ranked answer is then perceived to be the most authoritative.

Uxex in Persuasion Triggers in Web Design
Fig. 8: UXExchange allows users to vote up and vote down answers to questions, ensuring that the most authoritative answer rises to the top.


“If it’s running out, I want it.”

This principle tells us that people are more likely to want something if they think it is available only for a limited time or if it is in short supply. Intriguingly, this isn’t just about the fear of missing out (a kind of reverse social proof). Scarcity actually makes stuff appear more valuable. For example, psychologists have shown that if you give people a chocolate biscuit from a jar, they rate the biscuit as more enjoyable if it comes from a jar with just 2 biscuits than from a jar with 10.

Persuasion architects exploit this by revealing scarcity in the design of the interface. This could be an item of clothing that is running short in your size, theatre tickets that are running out, or invitations to a beta launch. They know that perceived scarcity will generate demand.

Related to this is the ‘closing down’ sale. One of the artists at my friend’s art co-op recently decided to quit the co-op and announced this with a sign in-store. She had a big rush on sales of her art. Then she decided not to quit after all. So pretending to go out of business might be a ploy!

Fig-9 in Persuasion Triggers in Web Design

Fig. 9: Phrases like ‘only 4 left in stock’ seem to stimulate a primal urge not to miss out.


“I’m strongly influenced by the way prices are framed.”

This principle acknowledges that people aren’t very good at estimating the absolute value of what they are buying. People make comparisons, either against the alternatives you show them or some external benchmark.

One example is the way a restaurant uses an “anchor” dish on its menu: this is an overpriced dish whose sole aim is to make everything else near it look like a relative bargain. Another example is the Goldilocks effect where you provide users with three alternative choices. However, two of the choices are decoys: one is an overpriced, gold plated version of your product; another is a barely functional base version. The third choice — the one you want people to choose — sits midway between the other two and so feels “just right.”

Fig-10 in Persuasion Triggers in Web Design
Fig. 10: BT’s ‘Unlimited broadband and calls’ options seem deliberately overpriced compared to the ‘TV, Broadband and Calls’ option presumably since it wants to to boost its share of TV customers.


“My attention is drawn to what’s relevant to me right now.”

This principle tells us that people are more likely to pay attention to elements in your user interface that are novel (such as a coloured ‘submit’ button) and that are relevant to where there are in their task. For example, there are specific times during a purchase when shoppers are more likely to investigate a promotion or a special offer. By identifying these seducible moments you’ll learn when to offer a customer an accessory for a product they have bought.

Help in Persuasion Triggers in Web Design
Fig. 11: After placing an order for a TV at the Comet web site, the designers encourage you to add other relevant items to your basket. This is exactly the right time to make the offer: once you’ve ordered the TV they remind you that you’ll need to install it.

Where to go next

Here are some great resources to find out more about persuasion architecture.

  • Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini: This is the book that started it all. Although it was first published in 1984, it still serves as a wonderful introduction to the research carried out in the area.
  • MINDSPACE: Influencing behaviour through public policy: A series of reports and guides from a UK Government think tank on how to apply these principles to improving public policy.
  • Design with intent: A blog by Dan Lockton, providing many examples of how designers use these kinds of technique to influence behaviour.
  • The behaviour wizard: A wizard-style interface that helps you work out how to create behaviour change, based on a model created by BJ Fogg.
  • The Nudge blog: A blog by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein that describes many examples of behaviour change based on what they call ‘change architecture’.

(ik) (vf)

© David Travis for Smashing Magazine, 2010. | Permalink | Post a comment | Add to | Digg this | Stumble on StumbleUpon! | Tweet it! | Submit to Reddit | Forum Smashing Magazine
Post tags: psychology, usability, ux

Older posts are this way If this message doesn't go away, click anywhere on the page to continue loading posts.
Could not load more posts
Maybe Soup is currently being updated? I'll try again automatically in a few seconds...
Just a second, loading more posts...
You've reached the end.
No Soup for you

Don't be the product, buy the product!

YES, I want to SOUP ●UP for ...