3 Psychological Web Design Tricks To Create Persuasive Websites That Drive Sales

Estimated Reading Time: 9 Minutes

By: Brian McCrackenbutton to visit the authors linked profile
High Level Developer


  • Great UX and web designers understand cognitive psychology and apply those principals to your web design in order to help you achieve your ideal business outcome.
  • Reducing the number of decisions your website visitors have to make will often improve your conversion rate.
  • Positive imagery is important for directing users where you want them to go on our website.

A lot of small businesses will have their website designed and developed based solely on a “Feeling” for what they like. There’s nothing wrong with that if you are a part of this group. Most people are.

Other small business owners want to dig a little deeper. That’s probably why you’re here.

Web design psychology is a complex topic. This short article will give you three powerful web design tactics that will help you create a persuasive website that drives sales when used properly.

Your Website Will Often Be Someone’s First Impression Of Your Business

You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression as they say.

When someone interacts with your website, they will begin to form opinions about your business based on your website’s layout, navigation, pictures, and the colors you use.

Being aware of how your website helps direct the opinions people form about your business is a part of cognitive psychology, and why it’s so important to be sure your web designer is capable of producing a professional website.

a woman looking at her laptop to view a website and forming an opinion about that business
Your customers will largely form their initial opinions about your business based on your website. It’s important to effectively communicate what you want them to know, and how you want them to feel about your business in these key moments.

What Is Cognitive Psychology In Web Design

When it comes to web design, cognitive psychology is the understanding of the inner mental processes behind how people think about your website. This involves their attention, perception, memory, problem-solving, and creative thinking. Each of those components determines how people will behave and engage with your website and form opinions about your business. Great UX and web designers use this insight to improve a website’s usability, navigation, readability, and accessibility to have a website visitor take an action such as making a purchase or filling out a lead generation form.

Cognitive psychology is certainly a much larger topic than we will cover here, but what you need to know is that it will help you create a more persuasive website.

Cognitive Psychology In Web Design is understanding how people form opinions about your business and decide to take action.
Cognitive Psychology In Web Design is understanding how people form opinions about your business and decide to take action.

3 Web Design Tips To Create A Persuasive Website

Here are three things almost every successful web designer does to help nudge visitors toward taking an action.

  1. Uses Colors To Trigger Emotions And Influence Website Visitors
  2. Encourage Decision Making By Providing Fewer Options
  3. Uses Happy Faces And Positive Imagery To Convert Visitors Into Customers

You can use just these three subtle methods to create a persuasive web design that influences a website visitor’s decision-making process, oftentimes without them realizing it.

1. Using Colors To Trigger Emotions

93% of shoppers consider visual appearance above all else when they’re deciding what to buy. You can rely on color psychology to enhance an already customer-centric web design to encourage your users to take the actions you need them to.

What Is Color Psychology [the brief version]

Color psychology is the study of how colors influence human behavior. Color plays a pivotal role in creating certain moods, conveying information visually, and exerting influence on what people purchase.

Color psychology helps you break colors into general hues, or specific colors to be used for specific purposes in your website design in a meaningful way.

example of color psychology in web design
Colors for your web design should be carefully selected so that you are communicating the right feelings and information to your website visitors as they are forming opinions about your business.

Examples Of Color Psychology In Web Design:

Hue Color Psychology For General Web Design Palettes

When coming up with an overall color palette for your web design, you may lean on the hue portion of color psychology. Color hues are often cross-culture, meaning they are almost universally understood no matter what an individual website visitor’s background is. They are typically split into warm and cool hues.

Warm: Red, Yellow, and Orange. They are used to evoke higher arousal emotions. You can use them to communicate love, passion, happiness, and even anger in your website design.

Cool: Blue, Green, and Purple. These colors can be linked to emotions such as sadness, calmness, or even indifference.

Evoking Emotions With Specific Color Psychology In Your Web Design

Specific colors can be used to trigger very specific emotional responses in your web design. Here are some examples:

Blue: Have you ever noticed how many banks use blue as their primary color? That’s because blue has been shown to inspire trust and the feeling of security.

Red: When you see a clearance sale sign, it often has red in it. That’s because red creates a sense of urgency and can increase someone’s heart rate.

Everyone Needs A Little Help Every Now And Then…

We know, this can be a lot to take in. If you have any questions about how to use these web design principles on your site, just drop us a message. We’re always here.

    How To Use Color Psychology In Your Website’s Design

    You want to focus your web designs’ color psychology and selection around your goals.

    • If your website focuses on eCommerce, you will want to use colors that encourage someone to take action. Using what we learned about cognitive psychology, we understand that warm colors can inspire arousal emotions that can encourage someone to take immediate action.
    • If your website design is for an institution that needs to communicate trust and dependability, blue is what you want.
    • For web designs that want to evoke happiness and joy, yellow is an excellent choice.

    Whatever colors you choose for your design, be sure that they match the emotions you want website visitors to experience when they first find your business.

    2. Encourage Decision Making By Providing Fewer Options

    When you provide your website visitors with too many options, it can be overwhelming and interfere with their ability to take action.

    This principle is known as Hick’s Law.

    What is Hick’s Law [the brief version]

    Named after Ray Hyman and William Edmund Hick, both psychologists from America and Britain respectively, they studied the effect of the number of stimuli (or options) presented to a person in comparison to how long it took that person to react to a single stimulus (meaning, to take action or make a decision.)

    Each additional option increased the cognitive load on the individual as there were more factors to consider. Their research concluded that when someone has more options to consider, the longer it will take that person to make a choice.

    image of reay hyman, psychologist who influences web design
    He didn’t know it at the time, but Ray Hyman helped conduct research that would later be used to produce higher conversion rates and improve user experiences on websites.

    How To Use Hick’s Law In Web Design

    Executing your website’s design to reduce your website visitor’s cognitive load will lead to more actions being taken, meaning higher conversion rates and more leads, opt-ins, or sales.

    There are many ways to apply Hick’s law in your website design, but here are the best ways we know of.

    Categorizing Choices In Navigation: By applying Hick’s law to the navigation of your website, you can reduce the clutter and confusion in your menu. Doing so will often make it easier for users to know where to go to find what they need. This will improve their user experience with your website, leading to a more favorable view of your business overall.

    The easiest way to do this is to lump alike items into just a few main categories, allowing the user to navigate to what they need without being overwhelmed by options.

    Simplifying Product Selection: Oftentimes it is better to offer fewer options that address your website visitor’s needs. In eCommerce, this might mean offering fewer products but making sure that each product that is offered addresses a need in a distinct and easily understandable way.

    Obscuring Complexity: If your website has any complex processes on it that a user has to complete, it is often best to split those tasks up into individual items and present them one at a time.

    For instance, if your eCommerce website has a long checkout form, you will often find a higher conversion rate can be had if you split that form up into little bite-sized chunks so that it doesn’t overwhelm someone right as they are about to complete a purchase.

    the formula for hicks law
    Hick’s Law determined that the more choices someone is presented with, the longer it will take them to decide which option to pick.

    3. Using Happy Faces And Positive Imagery To Convert Visitors Into Customers

    When you walk into a store and an employee looks like they are bothered by your presence, how does that make you feel? Probably not very welcome.

    Unfortunately, that perception extends beyond that individual employee and can become how someone views your business overall.

    Just the opposite is true when someone greets you with a huge smile. People love smiling faces, and it’s something everyone understands no matter what their cultural background is.

    example of the proper smiling face to use in web design
    Friendly, smiling faces in web design can improve the perception of your business and the likelihood for a user to take action.

    How To Use Smiling Faces In Your Web Design

    In a 2019 study funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation, it was determined that happy faces have a significant motivational impact on others.

    Those happy faces influence the recipient to interact, or in other words, engage with your business by completing some action.

    By placing a happy face, smiling, and looking at a call to action on your website, you can influence your website visitors to also look at that call to action and engage with it.

    example of a smiling face looking at a call to action

    When the smiling face in your web design is looking at your call to action, it will help draw attention to it, encouraging users to take action.

    In the example above we have used stock photography to produce a very obvious example of how to do this. You can see how this is done to stunning good effect in this article.

    Final Thoughts On Using Cognitive Psychology In Web Design

    Some elements of human psychology are universal and understood by people from almost any cultural background.

    As long as you understand your customers and what they need, and in combination with carefully avoiding common web design mistakes, you can use psychological triggers to create a persuasive web design that positively impacts both how someone feels about your business and how many actions they take on your website.


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    🙂 << See, it’s a smiling face. Now you have to say hi. 😆

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