What is Healthy Tech Design?
‘Marketers ruin everything’. So says social media guru Gary Vaynerchuck.
What he means by that (I believe) is that whatever new trend works well, marketers will find a way to optimize it. Then over-optimize it. And finally, start to get manipulative.
Marketers will push hard for better results and eventually the new approach they’ve discovered eventually stops working.
Go to any tech blog today, and you can see this in action.
Within seconds of visiting an article, you have pop-ups, drop-down menus, slides from the side. Everything on the page is vying to take your attention away from what you’re actually there for.
But it’s not just the marketers who are causing this shift in approach. It’s also the designers who make the choices of what each site visitor sees.
Gaining Sales, Losing Trust?
When a website is designed entirely to convert, it creates a different feeling for the visitor.
Even though some people may buy, it’s a short term transaction. There is a feeling of coercion involved.
This manipulation of eyeballs and emotions has slowly become the sole purpose of most business websites. The internet started as a place to share information; now it’s become a place to sell, sell, sell.
You see it on sites where they warn ‘hurry only a few left’ or offer a countdown timer for your purchase. Some websites use blackout boxes to stop users from seeing anything else except the product. Or even messaging that makes the visitor feel FOMO if they don’t buy.
But is that truly the purpose of a website? Are we designing ourselves into a corner?
The Rise of Conscious Marketing
In the past ten years, the world has had a shift in consciousness. Tolerance, acceptance, and conservation are values that have started to permeate the content we create.
As viewers and users of technology, we are not in control of the platform. Even though we can control what content we consume and create, we are still at the mercy of designers who decide how and what we should feel.
Here are three ways we as designers can help to improve the quality of users online experience while also increasing the success of your business.
1) Connection vs. Conversion
When running a business, it’s easy to get obsessed with conversions. Conversions equal sales and sales equal money.
But when a website is designed entirely to convert, it creates a different feeling. Even though someone may buy, it’s a short term transaction. There is a feeling of manipulation involved.
A website is meant to build connection and trust first, and that leads to long term sales.
2) Understand What is Most Valuable
Does a person visit your website for information first? Do they want to know what others say about you? Do they need options to choose from?
The more you know about your customer’s online experience, the better you can craft it towards their needs.
Yes, there is a need to drive sales, but that is the result of giving a website visitor what they need first. Again, this comes down to considering the experience. How does visiting your site make them feel? Do they want to know more, are they more invested after spending time there?
3) Options, not Ultimatums
The rise of manipulative design has started to meet backlash. Being forced to watch an ad, or having your screen blacked out to see only specific content doesn’t work anymore.
More than anything, people want options and control online. So in your designs, it is important to make them feel involved and empowered.
Something as simple as survey ads on youtube is an excellent example of this. By giving people an element of interactivity, we make them feel less controlled.
Examples of Honest Website Design
The good news is that some websites are getting it right already. As the web is shifting in focus, companies are starting to realize the value of honest design.
Here are three ecommerce companies doing honest web design to help make a better experience for the customers.
This men’s clothing company is great at giving customers options, options , and more options. In addition to using a more natural photography style, Buck Mason provides customers with a prominent list of options for the products they sell.
There is no single product push, just the chance for a viewer to scroll through and decide for themselves what they want to purchase, making the viewer feel comfortable and not manipulated.
Olukai is a Hawaiian shoe company that masterfully uses Non-invasive prompts. They do a great job of offering services, like email newsletters, while giving the viewer full control over the experience.
They simply ask for an email address only, at the bottom of the screen, in neutral colors, with the option to close out of the tab highly visible. This is an example of giving the viewer control of their own experience within an ecommerce site.
Clothing retailer American Eagle created the sub-brand Arie, to cater only to women for loungewear and swimwear. Arie is an excellent example of using a product platform for good.
Aerie stands above the rest when it comes to positive messaging and story sharing above product push on their website. Arie’s use of the hashtag #ArieREAL is known globally and offers a space for customers to interact with the brand and builds a trust that turns into viewers into long term customers.
Trust is a Must
When building a brand, and especially an online brand, the more you can do to grow brand trust the better. Instead of trying to trick customers into buying, it makes more sense to build a relationship. Healthy, ethical design plays a huge part in how your potential customers feel about you.
The next time you are thinking of adding bots or widgets to your website to try to close more sales, remember that humans are very savvy and honest design goes a long way.