February 1, 2011, 12:00 AM

Site Psychology

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Match the user's mental model. Consumers bring to a web site a mental model of what the web site will be like and how it will work. They know web sites usually have: a navigation bar with categories across the top or on the left and company information at the bottom. A web site that matches the mental model is easy to use; those that don't won't be intuitive, and people are likely to leave.

Be trustworthy. People make decisions on whether a web site is trustworthy based on simple things like uncluttered screens, fields that line up, tasteful use of color and a lack of advertising. Asking for personal information too soon can erode trust.

Understanding human psychology can help a web site grab the attention of consumers, hold it long enough to engage, and then persuade the person to take a certain action. Even a great design that follows all the established rules can falter if it doesn't include the unconscious triggers that drive human behavior.

Susan Weinschenk, Ph.D., is a certified usability analyst and chief of UX strategy, Americas, with consultants Human Factors International and can be reached at susan@humanfactors.com. Her most recent book is "Neuro Web Design: What makes them click?"

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