How to Build Emotion into Your Website

06.30.2016 4 comments

Creating a website is not a strenuous task for designers, but creating a highly interactive and cohesive website is possible with the use of some extraordinary coding capabilities. However, when it comes to integrating emotions into your website, then comes the tricky part.

How often do you come across a site that evokes some kind of emotion in you? Not many I reckon, simply because the design’s prime object is not just about evoking emotions but about enticing those who interact with the web objects.

Moreover, when we talk about building an emotion or weaving multiple emotions into the website, we focus on what users feel, and not just what they do, within the digital space.

Let us reminisce a little and recall all those websites built around the late 1990s and early 2000s. The type of language used was pretty much formal, in order to create a professional and guarded persona.

The trend was towards more serious content because it was perceived that one could not entice new users if you were not that serious in your tone. However, communication has come a long way with the evolution of websites. In her book “Encyclopedia of human-computer interaction”, Dianne Cyr mentions that if women dislike the online tone of a site’s content then they are less likely to be emotionally engaged by it.

This is just one aspect of the incorporation of emotion in a website. There are many other factors which play a significant role in crafting an emotion-driven Internet site.

Color psychology associated with the website

One of the most fundamental elements of manipulating a human’s emotion is to play on the right chords of their psychology. Moreover, when it comes to human psychology, the first and the foremost factor is the role of colors in getting the message across visually.

Some colors contain the ability to arouse and excite an individual, while other colors play a vital role in relaxation. Striking the right equilibrium by balancing the harmony between the colors can significantly contribute to a successful website design. Research on color suggests hue; primary colors red, blue, yellow, bright light colors; contrasting light bright colors with dark colors such as black or gray, and minimal saturation utility of intense versions of color blended pastels, have a substantial effect on an individual’s reactions and perceptions.

In the studies of Latomia and Happ it is mentioned that ‘ineffective combinations of colors on visible designs can reduce user performance and satisfaction’. There is a study to analyze the impact of color related to user emotion with regards to the perception of website appeal, (ref: Bonnardel et al. 2011 pg.; 78, 85). This study focuses on a variety of colors to determine whether the user found the site to be pleasing, appealing, and appropriate.

Testing with a variety of participants ranging from web designers to novice users, established a consistent color effect trail. Blue came out as the most preferred color, and the least preferred remained gray. It was revealed that navigation pattern was also affected due to the usage of a particular set of colors.

One of the most trusted companies serving as a conduit for billions of dollars, PayPal, also opts for the color blue when it comes to web design. As mentioned, it helps to improve the trustworthiness of the company. The same level of conversion may not have been possible with the use of red, orange, or yellow colors.



Each set of colors holds meaning, and each shade of a color depicts a distinct purpose. One must keep this image handy to refer to when defining the core color for a website. These are the emotional triggers which colors can effectively use to influence the brains of human beings.

color psychology

The effectiveness of photography and imagery to evoke emotional response

One of the important factors which is overlooked by most web designers is the effectiveness of photography, along with the imagery to evoke a particular emotional response. It is a fact that the human brain can process images 60,000 times faster than with text.

The best way to integrate photos in the website is to stop considering images as just decorative website elements. The ideal way is not only to inform the users about the product and services, but also to find images as the visual medium to communicate a holistic thought.

Blending the human elements in photos on the website can play a vital role in defining the emotions. These pictures, when integrated into the website design, hold the power to inject a particular set of emotions into the site.

It can be humor, calmness, joy, and plenty of other feelings merely through the use of visuals. For example, this image of a smiling girl, removing the bright pink hijab is liberating enough when read with the superimposed text. This kind of picture can indeed express positive emotions, conveying the message of ‘hope’.

too young to wed

One of the core aspects to keep in mind when selecting an image is that the message must be conveyed quickly. It should not be necessary for your viewers to guess about the use or meaning of an image on a particular page of the website.

As a web designer, you must not hesitate to experiment with different visual formats. This may comprise of mixing the image elements, illustrations and videos to create a robust and engaging content, which, in turn, can stir the human emotions.

Also, ensure that you limit the numbers of images you use because, when it comes to using pictures on a website, less is always more. Make sure you avoid using sad, depressing and evil examples of stock photography.

Integrating Maslow’s hierarchy of needs in designing a website

As per Abraham Maslow’s proposed theory about the “Needs hierarchy”, humans are programmed first with the tendency to satisfy their basic needs before addressing any other needs. It also states that people flourish when their top tier of requirements are fulfilled.

maslow's hierarchy of needs

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

To understand better the design aspect concerning Maslow’s Theory, we can generate a better understanding of how the average user acts on the web.

Maslow's hierarchy of needs

Remapping Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to the needs of our users.

The first need is to design the functional interfaces so that they can solve the purpose for which users come to the web in the first place. Also, the interfaces must be reliable regarding security, consistency and must assure the trustworthiness of the content. The next aspect, which designers need to take into account to serve the audiences better, is the creation of a convenient design. It must be easy to use, easy to operate, and easy to recall.

However, the emotional aspect which most of the designers overlook is that of pleasure. Even though pleasure is the core emotion of culinary art, one cannot ignore its absence. Take a look at Snowglobes and Wufoo for reference.


One aspect that distinguishes the difference between the above two web pages is the sense of personality. To be precise, personality is the platform on which emotions stand. The ideal way is to incorporate the emotions into the interface you use when designing the website, if you wish to reap greater benefits.

Using Norman’s three levels of visual design in your website

As a web designer, it is crucial to understand three layers of visual design as defined by Donald Norman. This includes a visceral design which deals with the appearances, then comes the behavioral model which concentrates on the pleasure and effectiveness of use, and last comes the thoughtful design that takes rationalization and intellectualization of a product into consideration.


Now, reading these levels in the context of Maslow’s theory we remapped the hierarchy of needs to the needs of our web users. An intelligent designer must have come up with the idea of what mattered – a perfect balance of all the three levels on the website so that the users summon the desired response.

Implementing emotional elements

Last, but not the least, comes the task of implementing the emotional items that go into building a website. Apart from the images, typography and colors, words also hold the power to provoke some sense of emotional stimuli amongst the readers.

The use of emotional words on the landing page brings out the emotional power you want to communicate through the website. One of the easiest ways to appeal to the emotions is to identify the targeted emotion and then make use of the words that elicit individual sets of emotions. Here’s the list of words you can use for specific emotions.

pleasant feelings

It is important to bear in mind that one must not overuse emotional words because they lose their power when that happens.

When it comes to infusing emotion on the website, the task of a web designer is no less than that of an artist. Here one must have every opportunity to use the design space as a canvas for users to indulge in an altogether unique experience, appealing to both the brain and heart at the same time.

Written by:

Karan Dave is a content developer with Peerbits, one of the top mobile app development companies. He likes to keep himself updated with the latest technology news and gadgets. He believes that knowledge sharing is the best virtue, and therefore, he has turned his passion for writing into a resourceful contribution to various websites by writing blogs. In leisure time, he likes visiting The Himalayas and going tech-free for few days.


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