How to Design your Website for the Subconscious Mind
Have you ever pulled into the parking lot, and suddenly realized you can’t remember how you got there? If so, you were operating with your subconscious mind – the trigger behind brain autopilot. This part of your brain doesn’t require you to really think or take action before making a decision.
As humans, we rely heavily on our subconscious instinct. Amazingly, 95% of the time our behavior and our decisions, including web actions and purchases, are influenced by the subconscious mind.
Understanding subconscious behaviors is the key to influencing the conscious ones (aren’t all those chocolate cravings/binges now making sense?). The subconscious mind is often how a user interacts with your website. This is why your website needs to keep users engrossed, not only on a conscious, but also on a subconscious level. One of the best ways to engage the subconscious minds of your audience is through design.
Before talking more about design tips that will help your visitors stay engaged, it’s important to understand some basics of psychology. From the serial position effect in psychology, we know that people are most likely to pay attention and remember the beginning and end of sequential information. And, as the graph below displays, it’s true!
Additionally, web users spend 80% of their time looking at information above the page fold. This is because the brain doesn’t want to be bothered with more information than is necessary. Our subconscious brain is smarter and faster than the conscious brain. And, the browsing brain is frustrated by any tasks that take too long to figure out (e.g. think of the amount of concentration it takes for standardized test prep).
What does this mean for your website? It’s simple. Design your site so that the user’s brain doesn’t have to work to absorb the information. Gear your site toward the lazy brain.
Tip #1 – Put what you want visitors to see at the top
Website users have the attention span of 5 year olds. We all want fast and concise information. If your readers have to take effort to read or scroll down to the important content (be it text or visuals), you are more likely to lose your audience. Put the important information first.
Tip #2 – Consistency is key
Consistency is also important in web design. This tip isn’t meant to upset your creative flow as a designer, or trample on ideas you have to make your site stand out in the crowd. But, truth be told, people are motivated by ritual and superstition.When a website is consistent with rituals that are comfortable and familiar, it is more easy to navigate. Website users have developed habits over time that evoke a subconscious feeling of ease when used.
Sites that are built this way are trustworthy. Ensure your site takes into account these traditions. Websites that are difficult and force people to change habits to use them lead to high bounce rates. Review what highly successful Websites do to build consistency.
Some excellent examples include the following.
1. Tyright – Tyreright makes it easy to browse their website with their featured search bar. A visitor can do an immediate search to get to the content they desire. Their menu is accessible, and within the first heading you can get an idea about what they do.
2. Food Sense – Check out this design. Food Sense has a navigation menu directly where your eye starts to read, and all the important highlights at the top. Below the main photo, you can see additional content for visitors that wish to indulge a bit more, but it doesn’t take away from the clarity of the message above that the subconscious mind will notice.
Now, let’s look at an example of a site that classic site elements and ended up with a not so great user experience.
1. Lingscars.com –Yikes! Where do I begin? This site has so much going on, my immediate reaction is to close the site. It almost confused me with a pop up advertisement. Elements that a user is familiar with such as a traditional navigation menu, clean design and obvious navigation are not present at all. The subconscious mind may not have the energy to decipher through the mess of this site.
Tip #4 – Design your content for both men and women
This doesn’t mean you have to include sports stats and makeup tips, but what it does suggest is to make sure you expose your information with images and visuals as well as providing specific information. This will encompass both genders. In this eye-tracking study, men and women were asked to view profiles users on a dating site. The results suggest that men spent most of their time focusing on the images, while women spent their time reading the information provided. If your site can accomplish both, you will effectively communicate with both genders.
Tip #5 – Use hypnotic words like “You”
What could be more “subconscious” that playing with hypnotic words? According to Bnonn with Kissmetrics, this is Sales101 – using you is an obvious plus. The reason, though, is because the hypnotic power this word carries plays on the subconscious mind. We refer to these words as hypnotic because of a psychological effect called Fundamental Attribution Error. It proposes that while we are naturally prone to be critical of others, our minds take a break when we are evaluating ourselves.
So, when people talk about us or to you, we to be captivated. What they’re saying bypasses the critical factor—and all that’s left then is to stimulate the subconscious mind. And to us, there is nothing as stimulating to us as our own interests, desires, ambitions, goals, yearnings and emotions. Let’s look at an example from MailChimp’s homepage.
Look at the use of the word you. It is used three times in the first sentence, the first time being the third word. It appears again as the third word of the second sentence. And to top it off, they also use the word “personal” to emphasize how much this service is for you. This example shows a clear motivation behind Mailchimp to play on the viewer’s subconscious.
Now that we have talked a little about visual design and smart copy, let’s talk about the pattern of web content. We can apply this to improve our web design.
Tip #6 – Design with the “F” pattern in mind
Shane Jones highlights this study that discovered website users repeatedly consume web pages in an F-pattern. This pattern has three parts:
- Website users being reading horizontally across the top of the content area, forming the top bar of the “F.”
- Users move down the page a bit and then read across again horizontally, though usually covering less content than the first movement. This forms the second bar of the “F.”
- Finally, users scan down the left-hand side of the content, forming the stem of the “F.” The F-pattern finding has several things web designers and marketers can take away. First, make sure to include the most important information in the beginning where users can scan across the screen horizontally. Also, begin headings and lists with a couple resilient keywords to keep the users’ attention as they scan vertically. Remember, users rarely read text word-for-word, so your placement of information is key.
Take a look at your site and see what tips can improve the subconscious perception of your visitors. Don’t make their brains work too hard to absorb the message your desire. Key in on putting the most important information at the top, having a consistent design, speaking directly to your audience, including both genders and taking the “F pattern” to heart. You are sure to improve the user experience to your site and achieve maximum communication with your visitors.
@onanotherwhim, Jessica Stoker, flies the friendly skies. She’s a globetrotter, an ancient history enthusiast, a staff writer for Searchlight Content, and appreciates anything that touches the soul. Connect with her on LinkedIn.