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books design technology

Book review: “Neuro Web Design” by Susan M. Weinschenck, Ph.D.

“Neuro Web Design” (2009) by Susan M. Weinschenck, Ph.D. is published by New Riders, which publishes a number of the Web design books I have read. The focus of “Neuro Web Design” is to teach you how an understanding of how we make decisions can improve the effectiveness of the Web sites we design.

In short, we have three components to our brains, each having evolved at a separate point in time. The book cites research that supports a theory that we make most of our decisions with the non-rational, unconscious, “old” brain and the emotional mid-brain, rather than with the rational “new” brain. We all like to think that we make decisions logically. Dr. Weinscheck, whose Ph.D. is in psychology, informs us that usually we don’t. Usually we respond to something far more primal like the urge to eat, mate or flee. She goes on to detail the key points of this scientific theory, and how they relate to creating Web sites.

My gut reaction at first was that this all seems so manipulative. But I must face reality, that pretty much all marketing attempts to manipulate. If you want to compete you need to have a competitive edge. This book is all about facing the reality that neurological research reveals for us. And using it for the benefit of marketing. In the end, I really enjoyed reading this book in spite of the discomfort it gave me at times. People will go on making decisions unconsciously, so it pays to realize that – and not make the opposite assumption.

In each chapter, “Neuro Web Design” cites research about a particular psychological phenomenon dealing with how we make decisions. It then explains the psychology in clear layman’s language. Finally, it suggest how to apply the knowledge to Web design. Each chapter title is very descriptive and invites us to read text.

Here are the chapter titles, to give you an idea of the content within:

1. Designing Web Sites for Persuasion and the Unconscious Mind
2. Wanting to Belong: the Power of Social Validation
3. Feeling Indebted: How to Build in Reciprocity and Concession
4. Invoking Scarcity-If Something Seems Unavailable, We Seem to Want It Even More
5. Choosing Carefully-Given Too Many Choices, We Freeze (and Then We Don’t Choose At All)
6. It’s All About You: Speaking to the Self-Centered, Unconscious Mind
7. Building Commitment-We Want to Think We’re Consistent
8. Using Similarity, Attractiveness, and Association: Are We the Same?
9. Afraid to Lose-How Fear of Loss Trumps Our Anticipation of Victory
10. Using Pictures and Stories-the Best Way to Talk to Our Unconscious Minds
11. We’re Social Animals-Finding the Next Big Thing by Making It Social

Chapters 3, 4 and 9 seemed the most manipulative to me. But check out the book. It is a great read, and you’ll find some very valuable knowledge here if you sell stuff or build websites.

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