I’ve been exploring and researching the relationship between computers and people. More specifically, I’m fascinated by web sites and how, or if, they affect us emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually. As a web site designer, what special power do you hold in your artistic hands? As a blogger, what kind of reaction are you seeking from readers? As a well branded company, are there in-house human instabilities that can be sensed by your online consumers?

A change in perspective

Over the past dozen years, we’ve learned that a secret to a web site’s long-term success is to build it for your visitors, rather than yourself. This doesn’t mean you need to avoid putting “you” in there. With some brands, “you” are part of the attraction. However, what end users can smell from a mile away is a site designed to make “you” get rich or slanted to make you look good. They could care less about you. They can tell when the design and site’s purpose meets your needs and not their expectations.

We’ve learned that online visitors seek information. They love to be entertained. They crave an experience. If you notice, the increase in adult video sites is no accident and adult site owners are no dummies. What offers a better user experience, a static shot or a video? When Facebook learned a lesson from Twitter about our love of instant communication and feedback, they changed their user interface to include more ways to do this. Google caught on to our feeling overwhelmed by text information by giving us Universal Search, which offers images, maps, video, books and other ways to get information other than web pages.

Asia and Europe surpass the United States in cell phone usage. When you understand how mobile societies are, and match this with our curious nature and demand for “everything now”, you may realize there is far more to consider for your web site design and marketing than clear call to action prompts and keyword driven search.

The mystery and power of energy

For months now I’ve been tackling the theory that our online behavior and the actions we take after visiting a web site are somehow tied to, or dependent on, unseen energy forces. It’s not unlike how we physically feel when we’re exposed to people, environments or situations. I became very interested in health sites and whether or not they accurately targeted visitors and consumers arriving in various emotional or mental states. In fact, any product, service and brand created to benefit a human has an enormous job attempting to meet the needs of what may be thousands of different types of users.

So let’s get into some of this. You are a human being. You have before you a computer of some type or perhaps a cell phone. It’s equipment that contains the energy forces that made it (with all their fancy scientific names). Some scientists are exploring whether objects contain the consciousness of those who built it. This is similar to organ “memory” where an organ transplant patient has the memories and physical habits of their donor.

There are many names for unseen human energy. In China, it is qi or chi, prana in the Yoga tradition of India and Tibet, ruach in Hebrew, ki in Japan, baraka for Sufis, wakan by the Lakota, orenda by Iroquois and more. This energy is considered to be an intelligent, subtle force that transcends human knowing. Many of use rely on our awareness of this energy as our guide in decision making. It may be used by our bodies to heal ourselves.

There are other types of energy. Electricity is one. Every breath, every piece of food you digest, plus your memories, feelings and thoughts are encoded in patterns of tiny particles of electricity. We’re bombarded by waves of electromagnetic emissions by computer monitors. Something you may have experienced by being around a person or thing is a “vibe” that you may interpret as positive or negative.

We’re more than skin and bones with credit cards

If you can agree to some extent that there are vibrational fields, auras, energy fields and other unseen forces around our bodies, than you might be interested in some of the research on the “spiritual brain”, neuroscience, evolution of the mind, evolution psychology, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Why would energies matter in user experience design? Do they come into play with marketing and online branding?
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Have you ever worked for a company where so many people and departments are involved in a web site or software application development project that it never really reaches completion? Or, if it does, it didn’t meet user expectations or hold up to what marketing and advertising claims said it would? As an end user, can you sense that behind the scenes of a web site, you can somehow feel the unity or disharmony of those involved in making it? When you scan Twitter, how do feel about some of the comments made there? Do they make any part of your body feel good or bad while reading them? Do you tense up? Do you bypass users who are always bringing you down?

We feel things.

Some people have extra senses that you may not be aware of, and you should, because they are also visiting your web site. Do you know someone who is sensitive enough to identify electrical shifts in someone’s body? There are people who can “taste” colors (a phenomenon known as synthesesia) and those who hear sounds the majority of us don’t catch. When you stop to consider how unique we are and what our uniqueness brings to the table with designing and marketing web sites, is it any wonder we sometimes feel helpless when we see a drop in conversions?

Energize your brand

In the book, The Brand Bubble by John Gerzema and Ed Lebar, there is a section on how to create what the authors call the “energy-driven enterprise.” They, too, are exploring energy. They feel that a firm can create a competitive advantage by generating brand, organizational, operational and cultural energy. They learned from studying consumers behaviors and put together their “laws of energy.” From the book:

“The Laws of Energy naturally led to the corresponding New Rules for Brand Management, which translate each law into practical actions, strategies, and tactics for leaders and managers to induce energy in their brands and transform their brand management to create consumer-centric, energy –driven enterprises.”

As consultants, the first thing they do is perform an “energy audit” of a firm.

How much have we learned and how much don’t we yet know about our love for online communication, purchasing and business networking? Are search engines just a natural extension of the mind? These days I question whose pulling the cart. Are computers pulling us or are we pulling computers? And, at the end of a long day interacting with web sites and hand-held devices, how do you feel?

See Also: Can Web Sites Make You Feel Anything?

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This article was originally written by Kim Berg and published by Search Engine Land, April 24, 2009

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Kim Krause Berg’s long background in web design, SEO and usability includes software application functional and user interface testing, accessibility, information architecture and persuasive design. She shared her passion for Usability and SEO through her site and private consulting at Cre8pc for 17 years. Kim founded Cre8asiteforums in 1998. In the fall of 2012 she sold her forums to Internet Marketing Ninjas and retired from private consulting to join their Executive Management team where she continues her work in usability testing, customer experience and conversions design.

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