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The Psychology of Graphic Design for Web Designers

written by: Lucinda Watrous•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 4/29/2009

Some may not think the psychology of graphic design is important in web design, but as the two paths cross frequently, it is important for web designers to consider. Keep reading to learn about how the mind interprets graphics so you can strengthen your websites.

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    When it comes to web design, few people may realize the importance of the psychology of graphic design and how it pertains to web design. This is something though, that will highly impact the design and the performance of a website, so important consideration must be placed on it in order to build the best website fort your audience.

    Consider the website to be the “window to the soul” of the business or entity it is being designed for. Sites with too many elements will keep the eye busy, likely overwhelming and confusing site visitors and leading to a failure to meet objectives and goals. Sites that do not have enough will fail to build trust because they may convey a “spam” appearance and thus also lead to failure. The key for web designers is to find a middle ground where the site expresses exactly what it needs to without overwhelming.

    The psychology of graphic design is very important because of the way the eye reads the images on the screen and how the colors in the images are interpreted by the eye and mind. The Gestalt Principles are important to consider in how the pages of the site are laid out, because the layout should never change from page to page, unless it has to, and in this case, the main elements of the page (header, navigation, etc.) should always remain in the same place to avoid confusion. In taking time to refer to the Gestalt Principles and considering color psychology—that is the thoughts and feelings that one may experience as a result of viewing a particular color—half of the battle is won.

    The other half of the battle comes to the psychology of web design, where there are two different ways of thinking: our experiences should fuel the design and the needs of the end users (think demographics) should fuel the design of the site. Though this may not seem like a measurable difference in tactics, it can definitely have an impact on how well the site does. The key is ensuring the client is happy while the needs of the website audience are also met—though sometimes this is much easier said than done.

    The “perfectly designed” website, if there is such a thing will place careful consideration on:

    • The needs of the client.
    • The needs of the user.
    • The colors, graphics, and layout as they pertain to Gestalt to help them better fit the needs of the client and user.

    Sometimes, there is simply no way to please the client while pleasing the user, due to various issues such as budget and time line. The important thing to do here is to discuss with the client the seriousness of considering the audience, and seeing if there is an appropriate compromise.

    Your job as the web designer is to make sure the client is happy and is provided with something the audience can use. The design should work and help the site to perform well, yes, but generally speaking, most web designers have nothing to do with site performance measures and metrics, as this is left to an Internet marketing professional.

    Pay attention to the psychology of graphic design and web design, doing your job the best way you know how, and your websites will be great additions to the world wide web.