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Websites with Emotional Superpowers

Good Thinking | September 28, 2016 | 3 min read

We all want to visit a website, get what we need, and get out, right?

What we’ve come to realize is all too often sites are missing a big opportunity to evoke an emotional connection through unexpected creativity. We call it, surprise and delight. Brands can’t afford to skip this chance, especially challenger brands.

We know that beliefs are stronger than knowledge. More motivating, too. When it comes to buying decisions, knowledge is oftentimes how we justify what we feel. Through an emotional or experiential connection a feeling can be relatively efficiently created. Why then, if many consumers check the web first for the products they buy, is nearly every website still geared to the old school knowledge format?

Consider the rise of content marketing. According to Forbes (Aug 2016), demand for interactive content is rapidly growing. We see it in how social media morphed into infographics and has grown to include more videos and interactive content. Quizzes, calculators and polls are a few of the ways users have direct involvement in their experience.

The lesson for web content is the same. On your own website you can precisely curate richer user experiences. In content marketing, content is created to fit the platform. On your website you own the platform. Why not transform the entire platform in creative ways so it resonates…creates an emotion… builds a belief.

How do you do it? By communicating both knowledge and belief in the most compelling way. Creative approaches need to be thoughtfully designed into the UX so they don’t interfere or obstruct a user’s mission. Your design and content need to provide welcome surprises and unexpected delights – often with subtlety and polish.

It’s no secret that only a tiny percentage of content gets significantly shared. (Moz, Sept 2015). Content that does get shared is amusing, surprising, shocking, heart warming, beautiful, inspiring and is compelling to users ( That’s emotion with relevance. Your website content has to be that good too.

Let me interrupt this blog post with a message from our sponsor, Preston Kelly. We work tirelessly to provide an emotionally relevant experience when users interact with the sites we create. Emotion with relevance. Surprise and delight. That requires relevance to the user and emotions appropriate for the brand. See what you think of these examples and consider building these kinds of emotions and beliefs on your own site.

Northstar Canoes are super high-end canoes for the elite paddler and those who dream of being one. Made of super-light Kevlar, a standard canoe website would tout that fact and simply show the designs. A lot of canoe shopping happens before canoe season (consumer insight) so we created a site that captures the feeling of being in, paddling, and even carrying a canoe (experience) and marries that feeling to the product. The detailed canoe information is there for the serious planner, but we give the user a chance to dream and build belief on the way.

After a heart disease diagnosis, you’d have a million questions. And you’d need answers. Unfortunately, most medical websites are written in a language only a doctor could love. We created for Medtronic as a patient’s go-to guide for plain talking information about implantable defibrillators. An ICD can restart your heart during an attack. Not getting one is a bad idea and so a writing voice that levels with you was essential to alleviate fear and anxiety. The site is actually interesting, fun even, a visual feast that can answer over 500 questions including the big one…can I still have sex? Honored as a Webby Finalist in 2015.

Even a simple portal page about health and wellness, packed with information can enhance a brand through creating an emotional connection. This wellness site for CHI Franciscan (in the pacific northwest) sets the tone for the brand and provides tips for staying healthy in one of the most beautiful parts of the world. The pictures, the writing, the UX and the easy tips to “own your healthy” provide a chance for the brand to not just tell, but show what they believe when they say Northwest Healthy.