Website Aesthetics: Turning Traffic Into Fans

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of articles online discussing aspects of effective websites for online marketing. Many of them address the issue of driving traffic through organic SEO and pay-per-click strategies. Not to take anything away from these important elements, I would like to touch on the importance of building personality through aesthetics.

Aesthetics will influence your visitors’ perceptions and responses within seconds of reaching a landing page. First impressions are critical in gaining attention and keeping visitors on the site. A poor impression risks losing them indefinitely. Stephen Anderson’s article, ‘In Defense of Eye Candy,’ makes a compelling case for NOT dismissing the role of beauty in a user interface (UI). First, he addresses the question, “how do aesthetic design choices influence understanding and emotions, and how do understanding and emotions influence behavior?” Then provides reasons and examples to back his argument.

The evidence of aesthetics’ influence is seen in its affect on the cognitive process, feelings and emotions as well as its ability to define personalities which influence perceptions. UI design, like product design, can be used to create personality and affect how users shape positive or negative responses. Anderson points to Dodge (below-left) trucks as an example of how aesthetic design reinforces brand personality. The visual design of their trucks imply “durability.” In another example, the Mini Cooper (below-right) has been designed to reflect its “zippy and fun” personality. A truly integrated campaign should include websites that reflect the same personality as products and traditional advertising.

Products with PersonalityTrust is also a product of visual appeal. Consumers perceive that companies paying attention to aesthetic details on their website also pay attention to product details. Anderson isn’t the only one making a strong argument for the value of aesthetics. Marty Neumeier, author of The Brand Gap, says aesthetics are a hallmark of “charismatic brands”—brands for which consumers believe there is no substitute. According to NeumeThe Brand Gap—Charismatic Brandsier, aesthetics are the language of feeling, and people value feeling more than information in our information-rich and time-poor society. To demonstrate the powerful effects of aesthetics, he cites the example of how Morton turned a commodity (salt) into a premium product.

So, by all means do whatever necessary to drive traffic to your site, but don’t underestimate the importance of visual appeal. Making a website aesthetically pleasing will increase the time visitors spend there, and developing a personality that aligns with your brand will increase trust and loyalty.

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