The best tricks of the trade for web developers
Discover how I learned to improve my web design skills by applying behavioural psychology and a bit of cheating at the FITC 2017 in Amsterdam
I now work in web development, but I started in a different place – as a graphic designer at Hola! magazine in Madrid. An overlap with the development team there sparked an interest in HTML: I loved being able to build what I visualised. And so I took a master’s degree in web design.
“Coding, to me, is the maths that brings creative visions to life. I see an autonomy and freedom in it throughout the project.”
In February I headed to the FITC 2017 in Amsterdam with our design and dev team to discover the latest happenings in digital. The mad chaos of Amsterdam was part of what was so undeniably special about the conference. Everything is like art, from the restaurants to the walkways, and even the cars. It certainly piqued my interest from a design perspective.
There were two important lessons at the conference that I wanted to share:
1. Use behavioural psychology to build websites
“The more direct the message is – if it’s in bold, UPPERCASE and features direct words – the more people will believe it.”
Ekaterina Solomeina, Co-founder, Future London Academy
Ekaterina has worked with top design and innovation companies around the world and helped brands such as Google, Facebook, Ustwo, Pentagram, Wolff Olins and the BBC. For the past three years, Ekaterina has consulted with pioneering psychologists, exploring the link between behavioural psychology and design, and how to change people’s behaviour.
It was fascinating to discover how psychology and user experience can be linked and how we can use audience research to make design better. Ekaterina believes that behavioural psychology should be used as the foundation of every site build. She explained that psychologists divide human behaviour motivations into two types: external and internal. Examples of external factors include – in web terms – banners, calls to action, emails and app icons. The internal factors could be an individual’s daily routine, the places they visit, other people’s influence or personal emotions.
Ekaterina recognised that while websites can’t control internal factors in an individual’s life, developers can use design to affect external outcomes.
She recommended creating an environment that contains triggers to drive the desired reactions. As 98% or more of all brain activity is completely unconscious, applying a strategic approach to the design of your site’s signposts and call to actions could really give you an edge in terms of achieving the desired responses.
An example would be to present a user with only three or four items at a time rather than any more. By making the decision process easier, the experience and platform is more appealing. This is a method used commonly by YouTube. When a user visits its mobile site, only three links are presented at a time.
As users will only consume on average 20% of text on a given web page, Ekaterina agreed that small chunks of text are vital to encourage a reader to navigate through your content.
Offer a reward to a user of your website or app in exchange for a desired action from them. Think ‘sign up to our newsletter for 20% off your next purchase’.
Ekaterina suggests that a change in behavioural pattern is down to these three key factors:
- motivation: the desire to perform a certain behaviour
- ability: the skills or equipment to live out this behaviour
- trigger: a reminder to perform this behaviour.
I’ve brought these ideas back to the office with me and am using them to help engage current and potential consumers through our web platforms for clients.
2. Cheat your way to completion to make time for passion projects
“Do not spend decades on one project; cheat and find an easier way to achieve it.”
Irene Pereyra, Head Designer at Anton & Irene Design Studio
When Anton and Irene left agency life behind them, they made a vow: ‘We decided we would spend 60% of our time working on client projects and 40% on personal projects. Some of the money we make with client work we invest into our personal projects,’ explained Anton.
Since then, they have worked on assignments for clients such as the Met Museum and ABC and have also made time for their own passion projects. Even if it has meant taking shortcuts.
Anton and Irene referenced their own website, where they chose to avoid the prospect of time-consuming custom builds each time they wanted to upload a new case study. ‘We wanted to improve that process so it would be super easy for us to get case studies up ourselves, but still wanted something that would look amazing,’ said Irene.
One rule for clients, another for us
The duo chose to integrate the platform ReadyMag into their site, which had the benefit of great simplicity and similar straightforward functionality of Keynote but on the web. This is despite their own work for clients being extremely complex custom builds.
‘You can position anything anywhere by just dragging objects into the browser and create pretty much any layout you want and customize it to the extreme,’ explained Irene.
Although ReadyMag is not an open-source platform, Anton and Irene managed to persuade the team to embed custom code into their site, so that their own navigation sat on top of the case studies living on the ReadyMag platform.
Irene said the result was ‘seamless integration so that when you browse our site, you don’t even know you are technically jumping between two different platforms.’
It was clear from the duo that teaching yourself shortcuts not only makes you more efficient but gives you the time to absorb creativity and ideas from your peers, in turn making you a better designer and developer.
Anton finished by explaining: ‘If you are just staying in front of your computer doing design, it can be the greatest design on the planet, but in terms of credibility, other people aren’t really exposed to you, so they don’t really know what you’re good at.’