Finally followed up on a long-ago recommendation (thanks, Karlyn) to read Neuro Web Design: What Makes Them Click? by Susan M. Weinschenk. After reading it, the suggestions seem self-evident. But sometimes we can’t see what’s in front of our faces … which is a bit of her point.
The book is heavy on psychology and how our brain works, in large part about our unconscious minds. But don’t get the feeling that this is a dense academic tome: It’s a quick read of 132 pages that translates psychological experiments into everyday relevance. A major point: Despite everything we think and study and plan, our unconscious mind drives a lot of what we do online.
Among the observations this book makes crystal clear:
- The importance of storytelling. The best communication, in any medium, tells a story. Not only should we make the case via success stories, we want to create pictures in users’ minds where they can see their own story (or future story) as part of the narrative. Are we just talking about what our theatre department is or are we telling stories about the opportunities available to theatre majors? To read about students who get to direct a mainstage production, write and stage original one-act plays or what alumni are doing is compelling stuff! And if we invite users to tell us their stories, that brings us to …
- The power of online engagement. There is, psychologically, a huge gulf between making your first Amazon purchase and writing your first Amazon review. The former makes you a customer; the latter makes you a member of the community. Friending someone on Facebook is one level, but commenting on each others’ photos or status updates is a deeper level of connection. This is why the idea of creating microtransactions — meaningful ways to interact online, such as “Tell us your Oswego story” — is so intriguing to me in our web redevelopment.
- It’s all about the user. We don’t like to think of ourselves as self-centered, but user-centered design necessarily realizes that self-interest drives our web visitors’ actions. Thinking about what users most want to do and what they don’t want to do should drive how we build web pages and content — moreso than what we (as content providers and designers) see from the inside. “What’s in it for me?” is, whether they want to admit or not, the thought on users’ minds when they visit your site. This is why thinking of user experience is paramount and “org-chart navigation” — how we see ourselves — just obfuscates the process.
There’s more to the book. Much more. And I highly recommend it. The only thing I would may liked more of would have been additional concrete examples of psychological concepts translated into web design. But then by not giving examples, maybe she lets our mind search for examples … or create them ourselves? The brain is a powerful machine, and Neuro Web Design not only explains it, but puts it to work.