Your website is wonderfully designed. You have a lucid content, add an interesting graphic or two, make sure your meta tags and alt text do their job, get your audience …and yet your site misses out on that vital aspect that most of site designers overlook. Which is that vital aspect? But for that you need to visit our site again!. Ha.. Ha Good Bye..

That inevitable and crucial ingredient is the Feel good Factor that any site should have. It is like an orchestra where in you have all the musicians playing on all possible instruments, but still you dont enjoy when you hear them play. You only feel the loud nosies made by all of them togather, but that melodious sound is missing!

Of course, all these elements are important. But experience tells us that how you make your users feel is as vital as what you tell them. And it’s the appearance of your user interface that can significantly affect their mood. So, if you want your users to feel positive about your site, and motivated about returning, you’ll need to understand which elements of your interface can affect the mood of your visitors.

Why are Users’ Feelings Important?

Emotions influence behaviour.

There’s growing demand for research into the effect of the interface on users’ emotional responses. This has huge implications for ecommerce, Internet banking and educational software, as commercial organisations are now beginning to realise.

Consequently, it is primarily the ecommerce sector that leads the way in research, and the current studies suggest that target emotions can be induced via the interface. Researchers have proved that manipulating visual design factors of the customer interface in an ecommerce system could induce a target emotion such as trustworthiness, some say that positive responses could be induced using multimedia to influence investment decisions. All said and done it is not a bed of roses or a cakewalk for you. Your page could just as easily have a negative effect! So it is all the more important to pay attention to visual design factors and multimedia elements, but how do we know what works?

The Importance of Colour

In such a new and dynamic area of research, this is still largely the case, but today there is some general opinion about what works in the industry. High quality graphics are recognised as having real importance in the creation of a pleasant experience. And there’s also real evidence that colour has a significant role to play in influencing emotions.

That we associate colours with emotions is eveident from the fact that you must have heard people about their black moods, or blue moods or you must have seen some in red? This has been exploited in advertising for years, with colours used to encourage particular associations with products. Pink, representing softness and gentleness, is used for baby and bath products while blue color is used to give that cool and calm effect to your mood. There is no reason to suppose that this association of colour with mood is any less potent when the colours are on a computer screen, and that by using appropriate colours on-screen, the associated moods will be communicated to the user in just the same way as in product, TV and magazine advertising.

Putting the Research to Work

More importantly, though, there is increasing evidence that colour is not only associated with mood, but that it can be used deliberately to induce particular emotional response. Schauss (1979) reports that a particular shade of pink (Baker-Miller) can relax hostile or agitated behaviour in approximately ten to fifteen minutes. Hamid et al (1989) found that physical strength and a highly positive mood were demonstrated in a pink-coloured room while the reverse was found in a blue-coloured room.

Chronicle and Wilkins (1991, p890) found that the colour red increased visual discomfort in migraineurs, and Kaiser (1984, in Davidoff 1991 p113) reports the effects of colour in the treatment of jaundice and the production of epileptic seizures. Valdez et al. (1994) found that colour saturation and brightness evidenced strong and consistent effects on emotions, with blue, blue-green, green, red-purple, purple, and purple-blue being the most pleasant hues, and yellow and green-yellow the least pleasant. Green-yellow, blue-green, and green were the most arousing, whereas purple-blue and yellow-red were the least arousing.

If these findings translate to interface design they present some interesting possibilities. Emotions could be targeted, for instance, to enhance the effectiveness of multimedia for particular purposes, such as learning, or motivation for positive change.

Early indications are that colour does continue to have an effect when viewed on screen. Wolfson and Case (2000) manipulated background colour (red/blue) and sound (loud/quiet) in a series of computer games. Players using a blue screen improved gradually over the session, while red screen players peaked midway and then deteriorated. A similar pattern for heart rate was found, suggesting that arousal was implicated in the effect. Sound alone had little impact, but the red/loud combination was associated with perceptions of excitement and playing well. The results suggest that the aura of a computer game may affect cognitive and physiological responses. In another study, Passigand and Levin (1999) found that, on learning interfaces, boys preferred green and blue colours, while girls preferred red and yellow screens full of drawings that changed slowly.

The Shape of Things to Come?

There is also evidence of a relationship between shape and emotion. Researchers have found that most of their subjects tended to represent the meaning of ‘sadness’ by lines directed downward from left to right, and of ‘gayness’ by lines that were horizontal or directed up from left to right. ‘Anger’ was represented by irregular, sharp-angled and jagged lines; ‘graveness’ and ‘idleness’ by gently curving or relatively straight lines. Some have even pointed out that ‘at least in our culture, acute angles are more ‘tense’ than right angles or curves, crowded compositions are more ‘excited’ than ones with a great deal of empty space’, and posit a developmental explanation.

Since a multimedia product is inevitably concerned with the arrangement of shape and form, the effect on the user could make a difference to the effectiveness of a site. But don’t overdo it: animations that perform infinite loops on the screen seem to be less appealing than those that are fleeting.

Sounds Like…

The effect of colours and shapes can be enhanced with sound effects. There has been enough study on the effect of music on mood.

For instance, McCraty et al (1998) found that grunge rock music increased hostility, sadness, tension, and fatigue, and reduced caring, relaxation, mental clarity and vigour. In contrast, ‘new age’ music (such as the sounds of pan pipes and rain forests) produced significant increases in caring, relaxation, mental clarity, and vigour, and decreased hostility, fatigue, sadness, and tension. Lai (1999) found significant post-test differences in experimental group participants’ heart rates, respiratory rates, blood pressure, and tranquil mood states after a music/sound intervention.

Other studies suggest that particular types of classical music promote optimum conditions for concentration. Hughes (2001) reviews the ‘Mozart Effect’, an improvement of performance (improved spatial temporal reasoning, improved IQ test results, neurophysiological changes and increased coherence) while listening to Mozart music. All this suggests that the inclusion of tranquil sounds and certain classical pieces in an interface may contribute to a feeling of motivation for positive change. So dont play a wedding tune while designing your site meant for obituary services! You ought to have that much sense while adding the audio part to your site.

Trying it Out

If you care about how your user feels while visiting your site, why not put yourself in their shoes? Try visiting the site yourself, with colour, sound and shape in mind. It’s a complicated business, with shade, saturation, shapes, animation, sound, position — and of course, your content – all working subtly together. But going through the following checklist could reveal some interesting insights:

How would you like your users to feel?

Pleasant
Try using blue, blue-green, green, red-purple, purple or purple-blue, with gently curving or relatively straight lines.

Happy and positive
Be generous with the blue, green and pink; try directing their gaze upwards from left to right, avoid sharp angles.

Stimulated
Try green-yellow (but see ‘unpleasant’ below), blue-green, and green colourings.

Able to concentrate for improved learning and performance
Us blue tones; play classical music

Initially strong, ready for action in short bursts
Try lots of red!

Excited, upbeat, energetic
Use orange, strong red (not too much — see ‘uncomfortable’ below), loud sounds

Soothed, calmed, relaxed, poised for positive action
Colour with baby pink, soft green

Soothed, calmed, relaxed, lulled into a stupor
Use baby blue, purple-blue, yellow-red

Caring, relaxed, with mental clarity, and vigour
Use soft blues, pinks, greens; play ‘new age’ music

Hopefully, you don’t want to produce negative feelings in your users. But you might want to check your site for the following:

Sad, unhappy
Results from large chunks of black; lines directed downwards from left to right

Angry
Produced by large expanses of black; irregular, sharp-angled and jagged lines

Unpleasant
Generated by yellow and green-yellow hues

Uncomfortable
Created by strong reds

Hostile, sad, tense, fatigued
Encouraged by grunge rock music

Please send us your feedback about what your visitors feel once you implement all the above aspects discussed here. We are eager to know that.