When people think of computers and software, the words “cold”, “lifeless”, “boring” may pop up in their heads. This feeling of un-human-ness is often felt on websites and web applications as well.
Is this a bad thing? Why should anyone care about a web application not being warm and human-like? Shouldn’t the web application just serve it’s purpose as a tool and let the human user get on with life?
Product representatives in pyjamas
Your website or application should be treated as a your brand or product representative, it should be made to feel human, warm and welcoming, smiles all round.
It’s true that software is by it’s nature, is not living and can’t develop its own personality. But if your website or web application is customer-facing; then wouldn’t you want to make sure it’s as friendly and warm as your human support staff/sales people/team?
You wouldn’t want your brand representative go and visit a client and talk like a robot whilst wearing their pyjamas. So why would you want your website to look unpleasant and speak to your potential customers like a robot? We can develop a personality that humanises your website without getting in their way or feeling tacky.
Mailchimp is a popular and good example of emotional design. Mailchimp makes a normally boring task of sending newsletters more enjoyable. They have made their mascot (a chimp) Freddie Von Chimpenheimer iV, their product representative. If you sign up and look around on the site, you’ll notice the chimp, the colours, and the tone of the copy; it feels fun.
Key elements for human websites
So how do we create a more human user experience for a website? There are three main avenues which we can portray personality through a website:
- Design and Visuals: Graphics, logos, user interface (UI) aesthetics
- Copy: This is the text on the website. This includes headings, descriptions, paragraphs etc. The writing style and language will significantly impact
- Communications: Transactional emails (Welcome emails, notification emails etc) and flash messages (success or error notifications).
So what are the key elements to developing a personable and human website?
Personas - giving your website character
Like a person, your character should have many traits similar to a human. This should be written down. Writing this down in helps ensure everyone involved on the project has a guide in which they can help build the character and avoid any undesired or taboo behaviour.
The first step in creating a more personable website is to think about what sort of character/personality would suit your audience. Is your character a cowboy from the wild west, whipping out surprises with a confident attitude, or is he a butler who’s delightful and willing to serve your customers?
It’s also helpful to write down any character traits that you’d want to avoid as well.
The second step is to think about how the character talks, the language it uses to communicate with the user. Is it formal, witty? Write down some examples of how the character will speak.
Colour, Imagery and Typography
What sort of colours, visuals and typography would appropriately convey your characters traits and behaviour? You wouldn’t feel confident if your financial advisor rocked up in a clown suit, you need to decide on an appropriate general design for the website.
Using all the above elements, you should sit down with the stakeholders of your the website/application and start:
- developing copy/text for the site
- talk to your graphics designer how they can incorporate the character into the design, such as the colour theme, typography, visual elements etc.
- you might want to carry the character theme across to your marketing emails to get a consistent tone
- Implement and get feedback before making it live.
Well rounded and balanced
You need to keep in mind to make sure the personality is well rounded and doesn’t act like an over confident jerk. Just like any real person with a strong personality, they can get annoying very quickly, or it could feel very tacky.
It’s worthwhile to ensure that the personality of your website doesn’t get in the way of the user who’s trying to get things done. If you ever go to dine out, sometimes over-service can get annoying; this is when the waiters come over to your table every 2 minutes to see if everything is still OK and your mash potatoes hasn’t started fermenting into a vodka.
If done right, your website or web application should have a great personality that users will endear. It will give users something memorable and allows you to mold the perception of your brand.
We highly recommend reading Designing For Emotion by Aaron Walter to get more information and techniques about developing character for your website or web application.
Low Fire Danger can help you create a strategy to develop human websites and web applications built for humans. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org