6 psychological principles for better landing pages

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For an effective landing page that will bring results, we need to dig deeper and learn about our users. These principles can help.

8 min read

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Scratching the surface is often not enough. Good landing page design calls for neat information architecture and pleasant visuals, yet that’s just the tip of the iceberg. In order to create something that brings results, you need to dig deeper and learn about your users.

Of course, no two target audiences are alike. Luckily, there are some psychological principles that can be used as a general rule. In this article, we’ll go through some of the most helpful rules for web designers. To better understand how to apply them in your day-to-day work, we’ll also look at some real-life examples. Let’s dive in!

Jakob’s Law

This principle raises the question: why reinvent the wheel? There are plenty of proven and tested design solutions you can stick to. The best is often the enemy of the good. You might come up with a perfectly polished solution and realize that your users still prefer the old version. When you try to be overly innovative, you might end up misunderstood.

The name Jakob’s Law comes from Jakob Nielsen of the Nielsen Norman Group, an acclaimed UX research institute. The law itself is simple. It states that people spend most of their time on other websites and are therefore already used to certain design patterns. When you stick to these design patterns in your landing page, the experience will be more familiar and intuitive.

It’s easy to see when you look at several examples:

These examples come from market leaders – and they have a lot in common:

  • The navigation: On the desktop versions, the company’s logo is on the top left, followed by the navigation bar. The top right-hand corner is the place for login and signup buttons, sometimes accompanied by the search bar – in other words, a tool to find out more about the product. What’s more, all mobile versions feature a hamburger menu. These three (or even two) horizontal lines are widely understood by the vast majority of users. Again, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel.

  • The layout of textual content and images: The layouts of these landing pages echo the left-to-right reading direction of Latin languages. This makes for a more intuitive structure. The text is in the first column and is also aligned to the left. The hero image or video is always on the right (or below the text on mobile devices).

  • The mental models: Jakob’s Law leverages the user’s existing mental models. In layman’s terms, this means that the user already has a representation of the experience in their mind. They expect certain functions to be found in certain places and to work in a specific way. When it comes to landing pages, people tend to scan them according to the Z-pattern:

Z-pattern for reading web content

The pages we’ve used as examples follow this design quite closely. The logo and the login button remain in the same place, yet the strategy has slightly changed for the main CTA. Instead of placing the CTA at the fourth focal point, the designers have stuck to the minimal amount of information and placed the signup button at the third point of the Z-pattern.

This finding brings us to another principle:

Principle of least effort

We don’t process more information than is necessary, but it’s not because we’re lazy. We just have a lot on our plates. Did you know that we process around 100,000 words every day? It’s the equivalent of a medium-length novel, such as The Hobbit, or Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

Keep in mind that every landing page contributes to information overload. Here’s how you can use the principle of least effort in your web design efforts:

  • Cut the experience short: Analyze the user journey and find the weakest spots. See where your visitors drop out. It might mean that this part of the experience causes friction and discourages the user from proceeding. The solution? You can redesign the journey, make it shorter, and remove potential points of frustration.

  • Stick to plain language: It’s not all about visual design – it’s also about written content. When your audience has to go through industry jargon and complex paragraphs, it adds extra tasks to their cognitive load. Use short sentences and simple vocabulary to create a better experience for your users. This is particularly important on landing pages, where the space for text is limited and you need to strike all the right chords with the right words.

  • Group items into categories: A landing page serves a certain purpose. You don’t have to hit the user with all the details at the start. When you’ve got a product offer to show, you can group different features into three or four categories. It’s enough if the user gets a general idea that’s easy to process and remember. At this stage, your main goal is to get the user to respond to the CTA. Here’s where another psychological principle comes in:

Hick's Law

When it comes to options, is it the more the merrier?

It would probably work like that if our decisions were purely rational. Hick’s Law states: the more choices we have, the longer it takes to make the final decision. This became the foundation for the KISS acronym. No matter if you choose to interpret it as Keep it Short and Sweet or Keep it Simple, Stupid, the idea remains the same.

A similar phenomenon was described by Barry Schwartz in his book The Paradox of Choice. The author goes one step further and states that limiting choice can reduce the user’s anxiety. Choosing from a variety of options offers certain freedom, but it’s also a responsibility. When we’re not happy with the final decision, we blame it on ourselves.