Published: May 18 2012, by John
We've talked a few times on this blog about the benefits of emotional design on websites. And there's plenty of talk about the positive results it can bring all over the web.
The websites that often get referred to when looking at Emotional design are Mail Chimp, Wufoo or Carbon Made (amongst others). They're great sites and deserve attention, plus it's easy to see the personality come through and identify the emotion.
But I think the focus of attention to these somewhat quirky and fun sites can be off-putting to many businesses when trying to explain the benefits of emotional engagement online. You don't have to be loud, highly expressive or funny to positively engage with a person in real life - and the same applies on the web.
You just need to engage in a way that is appropriate.
Many businesses hide behind a big corporate brand that is derived from the way executives behave in the boardroom. It's necessary to restrain your individuality in the boardroom because too many conflicting personalities can be a barrier to an objective business discussion.
But step outside of the boardroom and one-to-one conversations between the same executives will show much more individual character and opinion to come through. The conversation will still be professional, but also reveal a lot more emotion from each party.
Too many business websites fall into the boardroom model because the voice on the website is the one they'd use if speaking to all potential users in a single room. In reality, it's very much a one-to-one interaction between a single user and your website. The tone of content in your website should be the one you'd use if talking to a single customer in your office.
It's not appropriate for most businesses to have a website design like Mail Chimp, but they should still think about engaging with customers on an emotional level that is appropriate.
The personal finance service Mint needs to show itself to be reputable, reliable, secure. Customers are trusting Mint with a lot of private information - it's not appropriate for Mint to appear lighthearted about this. And the website reflects this position. The design and content has the tone of a business you you feel are sincere and trustworthy.
But they're not boring. The site has a sense of calm and, importantly, a sense of purpose. The navigation is reduced to only the key actions users want to find and page content is laid out with care and in a manner that is easy to read and understand. Suitable colour choices and attention to detail of small details such as font style and supporting graphics shows how much Mint believe in their site. They've gone the extra mile to refine their online service, because they're absolutely convinced by and committed to it.
As customers we feel safe storing personal information with Mint and we feel happy storing this information on Mint because we know getting access to it in future will be a simple and enjoyable process. Without the attention to detail in the design - we might feel safe with them holding our information, but much less happy goving it to them because we know accessing it again will mean navigating an ugly or clunky interface.
Apple, similarly, has a website that is restrained and businesslike - but on every page you see home much attention has been paid to the content. It's easy to see how proud Apple are of their products and clearly do everything they can to show you their technology in a way that you will appreciate and understand.
In contrast look at the Hewlett Packard website. This looks like the website of a company not prepared to make the investment into their website because they don't have much belief or excitement in their products. Which site would you prefer to spend time on?