Psychological Web Design – Facial Recognition

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100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People – Book Report

Humans are Drawn to Faces

Pretend you’re picking a friend up from the airport. You’re standing there at baggage claim, mindlessly staring at the escalator that’s unloading passengers on their way towards baggage claim while you’re browsing the news on your phone. When your friend makes their way down, you suddenly and immediately recognize them (and will have an immediate emotional response). Even though there may be hundreds of people in your visual field, you subconsciously skip past all of them and recognize the face that you’re familiar with.
Separate from your visual cortex is another part of the brain that focuses exclusively on recognizing faces. It’s called the fusiform face area (FFA), and it’s also right next to your brain’s emotional center.

Why It Matters

Research shows that viewers notice faces on webpages far more than anything else.
Faces looking directly at the camera (and the viewer) will yield the greatest emotional response, and not surprisingly – the emotion expressed by the face on the screen will have an incredible impact on the viewer’s emotional response.
Viewers follow the eyes. If the face on the screen is looking off in a direction (or at something else on the screen), the viewer’s eyes will follow.
The moral of the story here is that images of faces can be a powerful web design tool. If you’re trying to elicit an immediate or specific emotional response from your viewers, or trying to encourage viewers to focus on a specific spot on the site, consider using an intentionally chosen face to guide their eyes and emotions.
With a nickname like “the brain lady”, Susan M. Weinschenk had a lot of pressure on her.

Being self-taught in all things web and creative design, I’ve spent a good deal of time reading books, blogs, and research articles on the topic of UI/UX, and I found myself increasingly critical of the authors. Most of what I’ve found has recycled the same tips and tricks over and over again and puts the focus on ‘this is what’s popular right now’, but what I really wanted to learn was why certain UI/UX tactics become popular or prove more effective than others.

With “100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People”, I found exactly what I was looking for. Susan Weinschenk, a Ph.D. psychologist who has spent 30 years applying psychology to the design of technology, brilliantly breaks down 100 user experience theories and clearly identifies not just what you should do, but why you should do it.

I’ve read and re-read this book over and over (and made it required reading for every Shocking Creations employee), and after finding myself reciting it’s lessons to clients on a daily basis – I decided to begin a multi-series blog ‘book report’. We’ve identified our favorite chapters from the book and have done our best to summarize them and explain how they apply to our friends, partners, and clients.

We want to stress that we did not come up with the information or advice in these blog posts; they are merely summaries of what Susan Weinschenk has outlined in her book. We highly recommend purchasing the book and reading it cover to cover repeatedly.

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