Why Art Should Lead Science in Website Design

Teng Chuan Hiang

If you think this picture is beautiful, then you must share similar concept of beauty with many photography enthusiasts around the world. Aesthetic response by Emanuel Kant, the German philosopher, presented an intriguing discourse on how human conceptualise beauty. Now, what has philosophy got to do with design? Everything. Why? Because what the eyes see, the mind perceive and perception is based on concepts learned through experiences and exposures. Philosophy tells us how thinking works and that is where it all begins. Emotion is the initial reaction to what we see or experience leading to the development of feelings and feelings are conjured through the mind. Having this basic undertstanding of how aesthetic response works helps greatly in designing just about anything.

This leads us to think about the homepage of a website this way. Emotion drives feelings and positive feelings is likely to trigger actions or a positive impression. This is how our consciousness works and in this specific sequence never the other way round. And if we approach design this way, we have a better chance of activating the desirable actions with our content.

When a cyberspace visitor lands on the homepage or any page with an intended purpose, the initial emotional reaction will happen within seconds. Normally this emotion will develop into feelings within 8 seconds (based on most researchers) after some cognitive and reasoning process. If the initial feelings were compelling and relatable, they will take action, if not they will leave. We can be compelled by our feelings for different and many reasons when our consciousness encounter reality. Take for an example the picture of the Singapore skyline you’ve just seen above. The caricature of the Singapore city state by this photographer certainly encapsulate the beauty of the city in a rather intriguing way. And indeed Singapore offers an unique experience but only if you dwell deeper into its culture and pseudo culture drawn from international communities formed here.

This picture is actually used on our website homepage to help our prospects relate to our work when looking for a solution. Our work is designing and implementing sales and marketing systems creating a unique experience for their customers. Just like the picture, the relationship between the picture and our work is creating unique experiences based on the uniqueness of their business to attract the right target audience. In this regard, if the person had the feel of uniqueness and relevance as the initial emotional reaction to the picture, it would be the desired emotion for a start. Developing from this point and with the right information support to help shape the formation of feelings, thoughts of innovation and creativity should appear. The cognitive process of connecting the emotions to feelings and subsequently partial rationalisation, the person is likely to navigate beyond to find out more about us. In this sense the goal of the homepage has achieved its goal. This entire experience is likely to take about 5–8 seconds or less.

The Art

The art part has to do with human consciousness. From many research by neuroscientists on human consciousness, it is not accessible by any machine nor another person, not without communications. Therefore, the goal of communications is to gain access to the person’s thoughts and feelings, an exchange of ideas. When the actions, if congruent with thoughts and feelings, will reveal a little more about the person’s intentions. Actions or non-action is a form of communications and anticipation of information needs in relation to their thoughts is key in deciding what content to serve up next. Content will only have its efficacious impact when it is presented at the right moment and in the right context based on the thought process of the readers. The right context in this case is according to the buyer shifting stages of looking, evaluating and deciding. This well proven Buyer Model helps us to predict the way our purchase behaviour works. Being able to anticipate the next step puts us in a good position to decide on design and information to progress decision-making.

To partially access the consciousness of a person, we have to empathise with them. The more intimacy we have with the target audience the better we can empathise with them hence use the right pictures and words to connect with them, emotionally and mentally. This is the reason why we want to form close relationship with all our customers and even prospects in understanding their challenges and desires. Being able to fully appreciate their buying journeys through comprehending their pasts is essential to deeper understanding of their informational needs in the future.

Although we may become very good with our intuition, we don’t want to rely only on it. In fact, we want to affirm it and to develop our intuition in the right direction. This is where we move to the scientific aspect of design.

The Science

Imagination leads reasoning, hence science is led by art and the art of thinking is the essence of all. There is much wisdom we can learn from the philosophical thought mentioned. Therefore, a more effective way to apply science to design is to augment design by measuring the performance of content. Although scientist has not been able to find out how the brain (biomass) interface with the mind (consciousness), but that doesn’t mean we cannot measure the effects of design. Content performance measurement is critical to our systematic understanding on the effects of design and content effectiveness. This is where we systemise thoughts and logically connect the dots between design and performance. We made this attempt in trying to fulfil a proposal requirement and came up with the concept of measuring every webpage in the website.

Please refer to the chart below:

Content Performance Measurement

Design may look appealing but if it doesn’t convert or progress the buyer’s decision-making, then it is not as useful. When we measure the performance of content based on the artistic connection between the emotions, feelings and actions, we gain deeper understanding of effectiveness of content. If we benchmark how content performed over time, we can establish the optimum level of performance. If the measurement is all the way to sales closures, we can measure the ROI of content. Knowing the ROI of content empower marketers to make investment decisions on content production intelligently.

Conclusion

Dealing with consumers behaviours has always been challenging and complex. The easiest but most cost ineffective way is employ a hit and miss method. In the past, only brands who understand and have the financial resources to manage it effectively made attempts to measure consumer sentiments. However, in the digital age and where open source is a major driving force in the technology landscape, this capability is no longer exclusive to big brands, but to all brands. The beauty is these technology are inexpensive and not as difficult to implement though some challenges lie ahead. However, trying to find the right people to conceptualise the challenges and coming up with the right solution may not be just a googling endeavour. It requires much exploration and assessing the recommendations by asking the right questions. It's time to rethink how we approach designs and in this case designing the website.

We have been asking for the longest time, how do we connect emotionally with our target audience. Now there is light at the end of the tunnel, not just aesthetically but scientifically and systematically.

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