How Digital Design Influences Your Customer’s Behavior

What do the Eiffel Tower, Candy Crush Saga, your shoes, toilets, zippo lighters, and smartphones have in common?

They are all products of meticulous design.

Design is everywhere, and designers have a hand in everything. It’s the invisible force that defines an experience for customers. In today’s digital landscape, design-centric companies enjoy more revenues and higher returns than their counterparts.


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How Digital Graphic Design Drives Customer Behaviors

One of the biggest cornerstones of customer behavioral analysis is empathy. By understanding the digital user experience, we can help nudge people in the right direction.

Deep insight into customer behavior allows you to reverse engineer their journey and trigger motivation with clever digital marketing design. It can also mean big bucks, and supermarkets know this better than anyone.

A Sunday trip to the market is full of more triggers than a high school reunion the week before Christmas.

Everything is designed to make the experience fun, accessible, and easy. The scent of freshly baked bread wafts into the air. Free samples are there to butter you up. Like a kid in a candy store, a kaleidoscope of colors and products fill your eye at every turn. Impulse buys hit you with more possibilities at the checkout counter. All of these things accumulate until you are putty in their hands, they hope.

Not all of it is about direct sales; much of it has to do with your feelings. Everything in the store is designed with your needs in mind. For digital design companies, the goal is the same. To create deep connections that motivate people to engage with your brand.

What Motivates Behavior Change?

Self Determination Theory (SDT) is concerned with human behavior. This model has grown considerably in the past 2 decades as it has become useful for customer behavior analysis. It breaks down motivation into two categories:

  • Intrinsic motivation – factors that drive intrinsic motivation are internal, like our values, morals, or personal preferences.
  • Extrinsic motivation – this is based on external factors such as reward or punishment.

Intrinsic motivation might arise from things like the joy of shopping or shared social values. While extrinsic motivation could come from incentives like discounts, freebies, or access to more services.

Trigger Extrinsic Motivation With Great Digital Marketing Design

Feelings are the frontier of digital marketing design, where stirring emotion takes center stage.

Donald Norman, a world-renowned cognitive scientist, and human-computer interaction specialist wrote a lot about design influence. In his book Emotional Design, he states, “Everything we do, everything we think is tinged with emotion, much of it subconscious.” 

At best digital graphic design can be a strong motivator for the desired action. Unfortunately, it can also be frustrating, irritating, and confusing. A digital design company that is aware of how people feel is better equipped to address the cognitive and emotional factors that influence decisions.

It always helps to have a roadmap when you are designing for emotion.

While many of the processes behind cognition and emotion are still very much a mystery, several models have proven to trigger motivation. A perfect place to start is Donald Norman’s three processing levels: visceral, behavioral, and reflective.

Visceral Design

Visceral design deals with immediate, subconscious impulses.

You’d think there are a million emotional reasons that drive online consumer behavior, but there are usually only a handful. Visceral responses are driven by basic processing centers in the brain that deal with survival and reproduction. In neuroscience, they call these regions the primal brain, reptilian brain, or the lizard brain.

You can observe your lizard brain in action as you stroll through the park. Imagine that you look down, see a brown stick, and mistake it for a snake (or a dog log). Without thinking about it, your heart jumps, and you immediately react to avoid the threat with a quick sidestep.

Today people are sort of like gourmets when it comes to design, and everyone’s a critic. Gut reactions about our digital user experience can make a big difference in how we perceive a company or product. Colors, fonts, images, shapes, and layouts will elicit immediate feelings about trust, credibility, and desire.

Behavioral Design

Behavioral design is all about interactions and expectations.

The designer anticipates reactions and learned responses to create a familiar digital user experience. Most behavioral reactions happen on a subconscious level, but they can be learned and improved over time.

If you’ve ever spammed an elevator button, struggled with a confusing shower knob, or used a trackball mouse, you’ve experienced frustrating design. The most infamous example of this is the dreaded Norman Door (named after Donald Norman). The term refers to doors that push open and confuse just about everybody.

The design flaw is in the handle, the first point of contact. Instead of a flat metal plate that would encourage a push, a handle triggers the reaction to pull. Despite labels that say push, people still get stuck because of their learned response.

Likewise, people expect certain visual cues when they browse a website.

Hyperlinks should navigate to another page or section, buttons are animated, and scrolling will move the display up or down. People always react to situations based on learned responses, and online consumer behavior is no different.

Reflective Design

Reflective level processing refers to conscious cognition, which is the home of deep understanding and rational decision. Reflective design resonates with people beyond their subconscious visceral and behavioral emotions.

If the previous two processing levels address the id, then this one covers the ego and superego.

The highest levels of emotions are brought on from reflective design because it involves prediction. We’ve all felt the extreme highs and lows of anticipation. Heavy emotions that cause physical reactions like pride, guilt, hope, and shame all happen at the reflective level.

Reflective reactions are the result of something a person just did or saw. People that find your design attractive and familiar are likely to reflect positively about your brand. The experience may come off as “fun,” “cool,” or “worthwhile.” Frustration, disinterest, and confusion arise when the experience doesn’t meet their expectations.

Every time a person interacts with your brand and digital marketing graphic design, they will have a moment of reflection, even if it’s for a split second. If visitors are frequently leaving your website without engaging, it’s likely that they reflected on their experience and decided that it didn’t meet expectations.

Design Analytics

Data and analytics are more important than ever for digital marketing and graphic design because they allow us to make objective decisions. A data-driven approach takes much of the guesswork out of customer behavioral analysis. As the old saying goes, “What cannot be measured cannot be improved.”

Digital media like websites and landing pages are much easier to manage than physical flyers or billboards. Metrics on engagement like clicks, likes, shares, page views, and downloads paint a clear picture of how people interact with your content. You can use this data to make informed decisions on how to improve performance. It works so well that it almost feels like cheating.

Data and analytics are two of the key differentiators between graphic design and digital design. One incredibly useful digital design solution is A/B testing, also known as split testing. It’s a great way to test alternative variations of your website. For example, say you want to get more signups from your contact form. You can use A/B testing to try out two different designs and compare their performance.

There’s More to Design Than Designs

Graphic design and digital marketing encompass a dizzying array of disciplines that deal with much more than user experience. When all of the great design principles are applied, they work in concert to deliver your message in the most effective way.

Breakthrough digital design solutions require a deep understanding of how people interact with your brand. If the design doesn’t consider human behavior, attitudes, and emotions, it’s more likely to fall flat.

People are much more willing to part with their hard-earned money when you satisfy their needs and connect with them on every emotional level. If you can do this, you will be one step closer to more engagement, conversions, and ultimately more revenue.

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