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Does Your Website Evoke Lust or Love?

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“Love … is ever evolving. Lust is transient.”  – Randeep Hooda

It is easy to initially fall in lust with a good-looking website – especially if it appears modern, contemporary, has a stunning aesthetic, or is visually pleasing. However, while a site’s appearance is important (attraction catches the eye), it’s the digital customer experience that helps brands foster more meaningful engagement. This may not always result in “love”, because let’s face it, not all experiences are delightful – especially when it comes to healthcare. But a strong human-centered design that’s built on empathy can go a long way in fostering loyal, trusted relationships with your customers. And after all, trust and empathy are foundations for love.

Make no mistake, visual design is important. Humans are biologically programmed to like attractive things and sometimes equate attraction with ease of use. In Emotional Design, Don Norman speaks to the “visceral” quality of design where a website captures attention with the sensory experience. Websites that are viscerally powerful might use design qualities and imagery to help users easily envision themselves interacting with the product or service. They might use color, typography, imagery and other design choices to communicate a company’s values and vision. While these are all necessary considerations in design, a positive digital experience beyond the visual elements is essential to ensure that this visceral “lust” evolves past a short-term, transient or superficial attraction into a more meaningful moment. Without it, a user might get to know a website’s personality (i.e. interactions), communication style (i.e. navigation and calls to action), friends (i.e. cross linking or social aspects), or financial savvy (i.e. ecommerce functionalities), and realize that this was not quite the individual that she or he lusted after.

The first step in fostering meaningful engagement is to truly understand your customers’ needs. Why are they visiting your site in the first place, and what emotions do they need met? It’s about creating design for your customers’ reality, or Design for Real LifeSM. Not only does a website have to be aesthetic – or “viscerally” pleasing but more importantly a great website must address behavioral design by having optimized human-centered functionality. Poorly designed functionality can quickly transform initial lust into frustration, disappointment, dislike, or ultimately rejection. Interactions must be clear, consistent, and predictable as these can increase users’ trust of the website and frequency of transactions or likelihood for recommendations. Additionally, website strategy should consider Don Norman’s reflective quality, meaning that the site should be thoughtful towards integrating the context of the long-term, omni-channel customer experience (possibly extending beyond digital and addressing cultural qualities).

Consistency and fulfillment are also important to building strong personal relationships, both offline and online. In service design, there is a concept called “front stage” which represents the interaction a customer has when immediately accessing a company – what they can see happening. The “back stage” is the contingencies (data relationships, etc.) it takes to produce the “front stage” experience – or what a customer can’t see happening. While lust on the front stage might charm customers into checking out a product or service, more frequent engagement with a website or diving deeper beyond entry pages might surface issues on the back stage – beyond the line of visibility. This can keep the customer experience from being well fulfilled, no matter how visually pleasing the initial attraction. A seamless, consistent, well-structured service design helps promote brand loyalty by fulfilling the customers’ expectations without hiccups or roadblocks.

The bottom line: While lusting may help to draw initial interest, customer loyalty depends on retaining satisfied customers who grow to love your site – whether due to its efficacy, ease of use, or other great qualities. No matter how good-looking your website is, it’s the customer experience that will help take the interaction beyond “lust” to a more fulfilling, long-term relationship – with the potential for “love”.

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