Psychology of Web Sites - Special Web 2.0 Expo

By April 24, 2008

The Web Site Psychology session provided much insight into the inner workings of the Internet and how it engages psychological responses in its users. The conference described the way in which Web site developers should design

their sites in order to elicit the best responses out of their users by following the principles of human psychology.

The most general principle to follow when designing a Web site is to take into account the users’ schema—the framework or model by which people see the world. People have certain schemas for certain websites. For example, a search engine user (Google or Yahoo) will expect to see a list of results following a search.

When designing a Web site that has competition or predecessors, it is necessary to not drastically change these expectations. Schemas adapt over time, so gradual change is comfortable but drastic changes will drive users away. A good example was Flickr’s smooth integration of video onto their site, providing a change to the site but not one so different it would completely change the site.

The second major point was to engage the user in flow—a feeling of contentment in the process of an activity. Myspace achieves this by enabling users to seamlessly browse pictures, profiles, and videos. Wikipedia does this by letting its users follow links for more information, providing a pleasant way to spend their time.

Flow can be achieved by challenging them and/or sparking their curiosity. Facebook’s news feed gives information on a variety of friends but never is it the entire scope; only a few photos of a new album are displayed so the user clicks to see all of them.

The ways in which we perceive the world directly affects our interaction with the Internet, so when building a Web site remember what makes you intrigued in real life and apply it to cyber life.

By Danny Scuderi
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