Psychological Hacks For Your Website

Most good web design uses an intentional or, at least, innate understanding of the human psyche at some level. A lot of things happen subconsciously that we can take advantage of, especially when a specific goal is in mind, such as increased lead conversion. If you’d like to learn some psychological hacks to use on your website, continue reading below.

You're about to become a mind reader with the information below, but don't stop here!

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Viscera and Aesthetics

The most fundamental hacks work on visceral reactions through aesthetic choices. Primal connections to specific shapes and colors prompt flight or fight responses within milliseconds. Consider that yellow could indicate fear, or that circles seem to convey a certain wholeness.

two colleagues interior designer discussing data and digital tablet and computer laptop with sample material and digital design diagram on wooden desk as conceptHowever, it’s important to keep in mind that things hold different meanings for different people, even before context is involved. So, while these cultural understandings are significant, at the end of the day, the perceived appropriateness of design choice is more important to gaining buy-in from the audience. Do the aesthetics match the brand personality? If not, potential clients could be turned off before reading a single word. Be sure to have a sound understanding of the brand at its core, and experiment with the best way to represent that. 

Gestalt Principles

Screen Shot 2018-08-27 at 3.55.25 PMThere are many resources on the Gestalt Principles, so I will only briefly touch on them here. Essentially, they lay out the ways shared or contrasting properties between individual parts can alter the way a person thinks of the elements’ relationships, for example, social media buttons on websites. Close in size and proximity, and often the same color, we understand them to be a group of items sharing the same functionality, even though their shapes are different. This is the Gestalt Principles in action. It’s good to have a fundamental understanding of them as you build or reorganize your website. 

Increasing Interactions

A quick hack for increasing quantity of interactions is to avoid sensory adaptation. If a color scheme is monochromatic, the brain adjusts to that color and no longer “sees” it. This is similar to developing banner blindness. The brain filters out “noise” and only processes the stimuli it considers important. Apply pops of contrasting color to important actionable elements on your website, such as call to actions to avoid this.

designer hand working with  digital tablet and laptop and notebook stack and eye glass on wooden desk in officeYou can determine the optimal size and placement of those mechanisms with the help of Fitt’s law. It essentially states that the closer and bigger an actionable item is, the faster a human will move to and click on it. Guide users through complex interactions by placing related action items closer to each other, such as input fields and their corresponding submission buttons. There is a limit to the effectiveness that size will contribute, so don’t go overboard. Many thought leaders in UX and UI design, such as Google and Apple, recommend a touch target size of about 40 pixels. This is about the size of a human finger, reducing the need for accuracy (and therefore the time it takes to complete actions).

As users, most of us are typically lazy. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, just a simple truth. So, encourage users to complete interactions by using established patterns and practices. People don’t want to and frankly, won’t relearn how to perform familiar tasks. During more complex processes, develop simple, segmented steps that users won’t have to remember how to do. Provide clear feedback. For example, after a mistake, explain what happened and how they can fix it (think of the feedback you get after missing a required submission field on a form). Otherwise, they may grow frustrated and abandon the process.

Boosting Conversions

Employ language that encourages conversion. Utilizing loss aversion is a powerful approach that works on the framing effect (a user is more likely to act on the fear of missing out than they are to act on the idea of gaining something). Talk about life without your product or service, and how people will miss out if they don’t convert.

background-black-and-white-blackboard-247708As humans, we often assign value to something based on others’ desires. Think of the way children suddenly want toys that someone else picks up, or the way we buy into fashion trends we later regret. To encourage a similar behavior on a website, you can use a tactic called social proofing. Adding testimonials or reviews establishes the value of your product to users; especially if the reviews come from someone they consider a peer.

Social proofing your site also works on tackling the Amazon Effect. Think about product descriptions on Amazon. Most often, the seller will tell you only the positives about the product. Those descriptions become an untrustworthy source. It’s often not necessary to read, because you essentially “know” what it will say. If there are other people sharing positive experiences in the review section, you are more likely to buy in. 

victoriano-izquierdo-730289-unsplashFinally, one of the most important psychological phenomena for lead conversion is Hick’s law: the more choices a person is given, the longer it takes to make a decision. They might even decide it’s easier to choose nothing. In order to avoid this, limit the number of products you present or navigational options you provide. It has also been hypothesized that those given fewer options are often happier with their selection.

Do Your Homework

While all of these laws, effects, and principles are great ideas and should be utilized when possible, it’s most important to understand your own audience deeply. Remember, psychology is a relatively new science, and the Internet is even newer. Even more so, not all audiences are the same. The best way to know what works is to test it!

rawpixel-660716-unsplashDuring testing, make sure not to rely too heavily on user interviews. Users may not always tell you the whole truth. Not only are humans likely to hide their mistakes or shortcomings, they often have skewed or biased memories of what actually happened. For this reason, watching and recording user interactions is just as, if not more, valuable. 


There are many ways to use the inner workings of the human mind to your advantage. There’s a ton of research out there, but a lot more that we still don’t know. It’s an exciting time! A healthy mix of shared knowledge and user testing will give your website the leg up it needs to do the job correctly. If you need further guidance, feel free to give us a call!


CATMEDIA is an award-winning Inc. 500 company based in Atlanta, Georgia. Founded in 1997, the company specializes in advertising, creative services, media production, program management, training, and human resource management. As a Women Owned Small Business (WOSB), CATMEDIA provides world-class customer service and innovative solutions to government and commercial clients. Current CATMEDIA clients include Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Office of Personnel Management (OPM), and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

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Alex Klawitter

About Alex Klawitter

Alex Klawitter is a graphic design trainee at CATMEDIA. She received her B.A. in New Media from the University of North Carolina at Asheville with a concentration in Interactivity. Alex has an eye for typography, color, and composition.

View all posts by Alex Klawitter

Marketing Research, Website, Website Design

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