Web Design and the ‘Mere Exposure Effect”


Why is it that many websites features look so similar?

One of the psychological factors at work is the ‘mere exposure effect’: We seek information to confirm our beliefs. If you are used to going on a website and the menu is horizontal across the top of the page. That the home page is on the left and the contact page on the right. That an underlined word is a link you may be under the influence of what is called “confirmation bias”. This exposure effect reveals a preference that most people have for the familiar.

Most business owners want a website because they have ‘content’ that they believe is useful to their customers. It is reasonable then that you want your customers to be able to find information and data to be able to make a decision. That decision may be to make an appointment, buy something, or provide personal information. It is an unpleasant and frustrating experience when you visit a website, and you are not able to find what you want.

In website, design familiarity plays a primary role in aesthetic appeal and acceptance. Something is reassuring about the “exposure effect”. People like things more when they are repeatedly exposed to them. People like their websites when they have some confidence that if they click on a underlined word that it will link to another web page or website. Contrary to what cynics would say, familiarity tends to breed liking, not contempt.

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