While research on behavior is widely used for creating effective marketing lead generating & customer relation strategies, when presented with a request for feedback on design products within that same effort, many professionals mostly reply from within an aesthetic view build upon personal experience.

Many executing designers also create from an overall empirical experience, some might call this talent, artistic creativity or craftsmanship shaped by experience. I’m not into the denial of the value of creativity and artistic genius. Sometimes, they’re just not applied in the right context, even abused as a magic mist fogging a measurable value. At the same time, what generally is valued as good design, is often no coincidence.

Fact is many design efforts are made within a larger lead generating or customer relation effort, a commercial environment. While aesthetic creative features can truly add a unique, original & compelling extra, a basic understanding of behavior relating to visual content can amplify the return of the overall strategic efforts even more.

“Design is where science & art break even” – Robin Mathew

This article collects some basic principles, just scraping the full potential. Something to fall back upon when you have the feeling a design is off while finding it hard to identify the cause, a valuable argument, a time saver or a spark to start deeper research yourself…

. 1: 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144… Put Some Of Nature’s Big Bang Mathematics In Your Design

As the “Golden Ratio” is a widely implemented use of a “nature proof pattern”, the above string for example, the Fibonacci sequence, isn’t a buzz. We’re living in a world, digitally & naturally constructed of mathematical patterns & strings.

“As we process visual input, our brain will consciously or not, look for understanding & order”

What might seem random patterns like the branching of a tree or the fruitlets of a pineapple, are mathematical patterns, which also appeal in a strong aesthetically way to humans. So why not start using these proportional gifts to create designs just as nature would?

If you’re hungry for more! 

. 2: Keep The Dopamine Flowing, Track From First Contact To Action

Heat maps, are widely used for tracking mouse behavior, hooray for relevant data! Nevertheless, it’s only an indicator of the final outcome of an interaction process with content. First contact is with your eyes, after that your brain will process, which might result in action or the lack of it. While on a page our brain is scanning with our eyes in search for a quick reward, basically “dopamine”.

“In textual designs our eye will scan in an “F Pattern” style, in search for the next reward, a dopamine shot”

For obvious privacy reasons we can’t track every webpage visitor’s eye. Thanks to mathematics and some solid research you can now nevertheless get a good idea! Imagine the power of combining eye & mouse data. Or how insights on eye movement patterns can help you generate effective visuals faster?

You can check your designs with this awesome algorithm tool: EyeQuant or want to discover more? Visit this article! 

. 3: Trigger Cells Faster; Why Size Does Mather If You Relate It To Distance

Bigger is better, a popular phrase regarding to buttons, call to actions, … ! A Duke University study proves indeed that cells fire faster when the target was larger. However a bit more of a complex relation emerges between size & action. Fitts, who quantified how people make rapid aimed movements, stated; the closer the target is, or the bigger it is, the quicker you’ll move into action. It’s important to keep in mind that both factors count, as the increase in effect vaporizes as the targets only get bigger. Food for some relevant A-B Testing no?

“According to MIT’s Touchlab a perfectly sized mobile button is 48px , which resembles an average human thumb”

Want to experiment with Fitt’s law, you can have a go here!

. 4: Why Visual Carpet Bombers Better Beware Of Hick’s Jam

Options, as it might be tempting as a safe reasonable tactic to provide many, your behavior shows the opposite is what you crave for. The threshold in making a decision increases with additional options, it even might leave us immobilized with no decision made at all. A classic experiment involving jam found that a high range of options thrived a higher engagement but low conversions. A small range of options resulted in less engagement but a much higher conversion rate. Hick’s law basically states the more energy it takes to make a decision, eventually the energy required to make that decision grows so large the benefit of making it seems too small.

. 5: Color Psychology In Branding

First things first, don’t let flashy statements about this or that color thriving more engagement fool you. Fact is color is dependent on personal experiences. Still as in everything there are patterns within color perception that play their part in purchase behavior and branding. Some overall general facts are true such as gender specific color experiences, nevertheless they should all be seen within a bigger picture, correlating with product, brand values, consistency, authority, and many other efforts. Keywords are “perceived appropriateness”, meaning “does the color fit what you’re selling?”

“Up to 90% of snap decisions about products can be based on color alone”

A lot more can be said on this topic, maybe I’ll do an article on this complex subject in the future. For now you can find a lot of interesting material online if you’re looking to dig deeper in this.

You can start here!

Key? Content Engagement!

There are many ways a designer can engage with a project. Enabling a “Dual Coding Theory” approach, in which the designer engages with the content in a conscious way will be the most rewarding. This is, in correlation with brand values, client personas, … and all other relevant data which can be provided. There are plenty more studies that can help you understand our behavior in relation to design, such as on familiarity, authority, emotion, progress disclosure, selective disregard, change blindness, gestalt psychology, pattern matching, recognition, humanization… It’s basically endless, an interesting ride of exploration & testing if you’re serious about ROI or making your funnel as smooth as possible.

If you have any thoughts, tips or questions feel free to contribute or ask in the comments! Let the dopamine flow!