In order to move a visitor toward purchase, your website must connect with them in a way that is moving. In a time where brick and mortar experiences are few and far between, customers get fewer interactions with your product itself. It’s feel, smell, taste, sounds are lost on them. Even some sight cues like size and color get distorted. Finding ways to harness the senses in web design is more effective than ever. And while we don’t suggest trying for all five, hopefully one or two of these will connect with your brand naturally:
Designing for the Sense of Sight
A website is a visual medium, so you might be inclined to think you should lean into a visual connection with your audience. It’s true that tools such as color theory tap into primal, emotional connections with their audience, but it’s also important to remember that sight is the most pragmatic of the senses. People don’t think too much beyond what they see. That’s why we value eye witnesses so much. It feels objective. Still, if you feel like your product and brand are best suited to connecting through the sense of sight, take full advantage with large-scale photos to fully immerse website visitors in a visual experience.
Designing for the Sense of Smell
Many restaurants take advantage of the sense of smell on their website by showing off high-resolution photos of menu items, ingredients and drinks. But there is a much wider opportunity for smell. I probably don’t have to tell you that smell is the sense most closely tied to memory. It brings the nostalgia factor. That’s why when I see photos of my favorite second hand bookstore, I can smell the old pages. It brings me a sense of calm, but I also feel my excitement at finding a special edition cover of Pride and Prejudice during my first visit six years ago. Think broadly about the smells associated with your industry: fresh mown grass, lumber, new car smell, laundry, suntan lotion, even aversion smells like body odor or trash can connect with customers. Harness what they have to offer.
Designing for the Sense of Taste
The sense of taste and smell are very closely tied together, but what you may be surprised by is how photos convey smell well but taste needs video to create an experience for visitors. This is because smell is a passive sense (you breathe naturally and smell), but eating is an active experience that involves your brain more thoroughly. This must be done carefully. Embedding a YouTube video on your site is a great way to connect intellectually stimulate viewers for demonstrations and how-to content, but they don’t capture the senses. Instead, opt for one large-scale autoplay video shot in super close up to give a lifelike impression of taste.
Designing for the Sense of Sound
When hoping to connect with website visitors auditorily, it may be enticing to include sound effects or music to your website. Fight that urge. Instead of focusing on your page, visitors will be searching for a way to turn off the sound or may close the tab entirely.
But distinct visuals have the ability to convey sound. Take, for example, a photo of a small child overcome with joy. Their laughter is so distinctive and infectious that you can hear it now. But sound emotion can also be conveyed through the number of distractions on the page, which we also call noise. Many elements on a webpage can be exciting, and ample empty space creates a calming or highly logical web experience.
Designing for the Sense of Touch
Designing to depict touch is something that has come quite naturally on the web these days. Seeing an up-close picture of fabric, brushes, massage tools, or anything else with a texture that will touch your body has become integrated into the ecommerce buyer’s journey. They create a sense of trust in product quality. But touch can be depicted through emotive means too. Comforting contact with a loved one, warmth, crisp refreshment, moisture and pain all have connections to color and can be seen in photos. These are things that can be conveyed through text, but pairing it with the right visuals will let your website’s audience feel it for themselves.
Though it would be an overwhelming experience to visit a website trying to design for all five senses at once, taking advantage of the one or two that best apply to your business can form a connection with potential clients immediately.
So often business is focused on marketing to people’s pain and resolving difficulty. But sensory web design is an opportunity to sell by connecting through happiness for a change. Isn’t that something we could all use a little more of?