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The Great Web Conundrum: Design Trends vs. User Trends

How to have it all: creating awesome UX with attractive, intelligent design

We've heard it all before. “Make it look like the Apple site.” “But our competitor does it this way!"

“Why can't we just copy AirBnb?”

It's natural for our client partners to look up to successful brands from their industry, and many even want to emulate successful brands that operate in an entirely different arena from their own. We get it, and we have to agree: there's a reason (or two) that these companies are so popular for how they represent their brands. 

But design is much more than aesthetics, and that's important to understand when crafting a new brand or working on a redesign overhaul. In fact, design itself is rooted in psychology; the colors, fonts, and images of a logo, advertisement, or website can—and do—psychologically alter the way your brand is perceived by each person that comes in contact with it. Combine this audience frame of mind with a knowledge of the cognitive biases that we all possess, and you’ll find the way you, our client, perceive your own brand most likely differs from what your prospective customers believe.

As a designer, it’s my job to bridge business objectives with the user’s needs and expectations, while also making a visually attractive website. It’s often a challenge, but if we can figure out where the two style and look meet intuitive user experience, the reward is always worth the effort. 

At BlueKey, we are your user’s biggest advocate. It’s worth knowing that when we refer to ‘users’ here, we’re talking about those important people who determine whether your site is “successful” by meeting or exceeding those key performance indicators (KPIs).

Users are your potential customers and your money makers. They demand our full attention!


That being said, it’s sometimes easy to forget about your users during the design process because of our own cognitive biases. There are 150+ of these biases, after all. 

Our cognitive biases are our tendencies to think in certain ways that can lead to systematic deviations from a standard of rationality or good judgment. These biases are often studied in psychology and behavioral economics. For the purposes of website design best practices, we recognize 5 cognitive biases that occur frequently during the design process. Each one has the power to affect aesthetic components of your website’s design and wreck your user's’ experience.

THE BANDWAGON EFFECT: A psychological phenomenon whereby people do something primarily because other people are doing it, regardless of their personal beliefs, which they may ignore or override.

SURVIVORSHIP BIAS: Concentrating on the people or things that "survived" some process and inadvertently overlooking those that didn't because of their lack of visibility.

THE CURSE OF KNOWLEDGE: When better-informed people find it extremely difficult to think about problems from the perspective of lesser-informed people.

CONFIRMATION BIAS: A tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one's preconceptions, leading to statistical errors.

FALSE CONSENSUS: The tendency for individuals to overestimate the level at which other people share their beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors.

THE EMPATHY GAP: The tendency to underestimate the influence or strength of feelings, in either oneself or others.

Why should we care? Awareness of cognitive bias helps us uncover the ‘root cause’ of your business needs and users' needs, which allowing us to produce a better user experience. With great user experience comes more intelligent designs (sprinked with a little strategic sales thinking, of course). Design processes are multi-dimensional and collaborative, so there is no ‘perfect formula’ we can templatize to achieve great work.

To ensure we're not letting our personal cognitive bias get the best of us, we test—make adjustments based on real data from real people—and test some more. The user testing results often speak for themselves, directly from the consumers, so we all win. 

HINT: Usability Hub is our go-to platform for quick, task-based user testing.

During a recent design conference, our creative team attended a talk on “Redesigning Your Design Thinking”, in which the speaker touched on all 5 of these cognitive bias and challenged designers everywhere to approach these challenges differently—and more importantly—contextually. If you’re a healthcare company, he used as an example, your content and users’ expectations are not comparable to the user base that Apple has. By this theory, website copycats fall short of ever achieving greatness in website design or branding. 

The BlueKey team believes in the power of creative thinking to make the web a more beautiful place. As your designer, it's my job to take you outside the box to create something beautifully unique for your users. 

Laura Geror
Senior Art Director & Professional Sun Chaser
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