Consumer Behavior and Web Design

How to Use Consumer Behavior to Improve Your Web Design and Get Results

Consumer Behavior and Web Design

Designing a website is a complex task with many variables, and you will probably have more questions than answers in the beginning. If you are a business just starting out designing a website or redesigning an existing website, it is important to use a strategic approach.

A website is typically the first experience a consumer has with your brand. First experiences count and if your website is designed poorly, consequently this will significantly influence achieving your business goals.

The quote from Hubspot’s Amanda Sibley listed below sums up the importance of having a well-designed website.

Digital marketing has become one of the most critical customer acquisition methods for businesses. All businesses, regardless of size are considering digital marketing as a major part of their marketing and growth strategy.

Website design is a complicated process by itself, and even more so when infusing consumer behavior. An understanding of the prompts used to move a prospect through the customer journey is critical to achieving business and marketing goals.

The first and most crucial element of designing a website is an understanding of consumer behavior and the elements needed to move an individual from one action to another until your goal is achieved.

What is Consumer Behavior?

Let’s start with a baseline definition of consumer behavior. Consumer behavior is the study of how individuals, groups, and collective entities choose, purchase, utilize, and discard ideas, goods, or services to satisfy needs and wants.

An understanding of the target audience’s influences, psychological process, and the stages of a consumer’s purchase decision process are critical to achieving organizational sales and marketing objectives.

Consumer Behavior Influences

A consumer’s buying behavior is influenced by cultural, social, and personal factors. Cultural factors have the broadest and deepest influence for consumers when making a purchase.

Cultural Factors

Each culture consists of smaller subcultures with distinct social classes. Subcultures include nationalities, religions, racial groups, and geographic regions.

Social Classes

The term social classes related to consumer behavior is relatively similar divisions in a society that have a distinguishable hierarchy with similar values, behavior, and interests.

Social Factors

The term social factors related to consumer behavior consists of reference groups, family, roles, and status.

Personal Factors

Personal factors include age and stage in the life cycle, occupation/economic situation, personality/self-concept, lifestyle, and values.


Psychological Process

The stimulus-response model of consumer behavior provides an overview of the key psychological process involved in the decision-making process.


Consumer Behavior and Web Design

Stimulus-Response Model of Consumer Behavior

Five-Stage Purchase Decision Model

Consumers go through five well-defined stages when they purchase products:

  1. Realization of a need or want (problem recognition)
  2. Information search
  3. An evaluation of different products or services
  4. Product Selection/purchase decision
  5. Post purchase behavior

An analysis of the web design for three organizations provides insight into how they account for consumer behavior using the five-stage model.

The analysis uses three different organization types that include, product-dominant, content-dominant, and service-dominant to give you a broad spectrum of applications.

I provide a brief analysis of the overall website design for each firm. Next, I give a comprehensive analysis of the company’s website using the five-stage approach.

Apple – Product-Dominant

Overall Design

consumer behavior and web design

Apple’s website has a very clean uncluttered design making heavy use of large font and high-quality images. The minimal and somewhat sophisticated design appeals to a soft-sell approach targeting the millennial and generation x consumers.

The design approach supports Apple’s belief system consisting of simple, easy to use, and beautiful design.  The design approach reinforces trust with consistent design matching their belief system.

Problem or Need Recognition

Apple and Steve Jobs using exceptional marketing campaigns created a need for Apple’s products for millions of consumers with items they never thought of before. Apple’s products have become an important part of consumer’s everyday lives.

If you are looking for a technology product, Apple is at the very least in the awareness set and most likely in the consideration set. Apple has significant brand awareness and consumers are brand insistent or brand loyal to Apple’s products driving traffic directly to their website.

Information Search

Once at the Apple website, the site design has easy to use tabs related to its core products including Mac, iPod, iPhone, iPad, and iTunes. Apple’s website is information intensive without being cluttered with aesthetically pleasing pictures designed to make online shopping easy.

The website targets Apple’s technology savvy customers who seek convenience. The Apple website provides easily accessible information that makes the information search stage very customer-friendly.

Evaluation of Alternatives

Using the iPad as an example, Apple makes it easy for consumers to evaluate products based on usage groups of the iPad including the leisure, educational, and the business user. The Apple website provides the ability to view a product’s page easily or compare the iPad products.

The user interface has large print and high-quality images used to make the information about the different models effortless and simple to evaluate. Apple also provides product videos, Apple support by phone, and Apple’s Support Community of user for information found at the bottom of each product page across the website.

Purchase Decision

Apple consumers also have a halo effect with a likelihood of purchasing other Apple products based on the experience of how one product works and operates.

The halo effect provides product confidence and trust lowering perceived risk. The halo effect assists the purchase decision complemented by a simple and user-friendly website design.

The design gives consumers a path to purchase at the bottom of each product page with a comparison, online purchase, store purchase, and the customer service number for any questions that might impede a purchase.

Apple also has simply designed and effortless purchase options using a shopping cart feature with financing options and a chat feature to eliminate any purchase objections.

Post-Purchase Behavior

Apple has the iTunes Store accessed through the website providing post-purchase options for applications and software updates for the device continuously satisfy the consumer.

Apple has customer service options and discussion forums on the website to address any customer satisfaction issues.

Wall Street Journal – Content-Dominant

Overall Design

consumer behavior and web design

Photo by kevin dooley

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) website design is somewhat cluttered with an abundance of tabs, a significant amount of content (banners or inside wire frames), and small font. The homepage design has a very large banner ad taking up significant amount of space on the homepage.

Problem or Need Recognition

The WSJ satisfies a need for local, regional, national, and global news and insight with a newspaper, and digital edition focused on business and economics. The newspaper edition serves older affluent consumers seeking a traditional mode of obtaining the news.

The WSJ website offering the digital edition with a mix of subscription content and free content offers news content to an affluent consumer audience focused on business. The website targets an audience that consumes information in a digital environment.

Information Search

The WSJ has 12 tabs on the homepage including home, world, U.S., politics, economy, business, technology, markets, opinion, arts, life, and real estate.

The website also provides a search bar easily located near the top right-hand side of the homepage to search for content. Digital content at the New York Times offers the same search capability.

Evaluation of Alternatives

The WSJ caters to its target business consumers and investors with comprehensive content covering the American economy, financial data, and international business and less culture and human interest coverage than other media (digital and print).

Brand loyal consumers have come to know and trust the WSJ’s content establishing itself as a top digital and print media news source.

Purchase Decision

The WSJ offers a subscription for the classic print, digital, or print and digital editions typically offering three levels of subscriptions, introductory, six months, and one-year rate. The company has a subtle call-to-action to subscribe in the upper right-hand side of the home page.

The subscription purchase landing page has a less cluttered design offering a simple user interface with three user-friendly steps.

Post-purchase Behavior

The WSJ offers a customer center offering various customer functions automated, such as suspending print delivery. The WSJ website also provides phone, chat, and email easily found at the bottom of each web page throughout the website.

Southwest Airlines – Service-Dominant

Overall Design

consumer behavior and web design

Photo by Aero Icarus

The Southwest overall website design uses blue for calmness and responsibility along with yellow and orange that represents passion and excitement.

The website has a user-friendly customer service oriented focus consistent with Southwest’s mission and beliefs. The website has a no frills feel, favoring function with a somewhat limited aesthetic appeal.

Problem or Need Recognition

Southwest provides flight services in the United States and limited international flights. Southwest Airlines website has decided not to list with other travel and flight services aggregator sites, resulting in driving significantly more traffic directly to the Southwest website.

Information Search

The site makes it easy and simple with the ability to log-in to a customer account and search for flight, hotel, car and vacation offerings. The homepage uses a simple, user-friendly approach with limited scrolling or having to perform an additional search.

Evaluation of Alternatives

The search feature allows the user to evaluate flight alternatives along with a flexible dates calendar tool to assist in obtaining the lowest fare possible. The booking functionality is now standard in the airline industry. Southwest was one of the first to introduce a low-fare calendar tool renaming it to flexible dates. Southwest provides a slightly more user-friendly tool compared to others in the airline industry. As a result, consumers’ feel a sense of trust and assurance knowing they are getting the lowest fare possible.

Purchase Decision

Consumers have an easy path to purchase at the top of each booking page. The options on the booking page include search flights, select flights, price, purchase, and confirmed. Also, Southwest shows the fare in dollars and points (tabs) and the on-time performance when the flight number is clicked.

Southwest has a simply designed and effortless set of purchase options with a shopping cart feature. Payment options for the website include PayPal and credit card payment options.

Post-purchase Behavior

The Southwest website options include logging into a Southwest account to access your personalized travel information. After you login, you have access to your preferences and personalized travel with options to check in, check flight status, flight status messaging options, view and email reservations, change or cancel reservations, and view rewards information.

Also, Southwest offer tools for hotel and car rental to provide one-stop shopping and tools focused on convenience for the customer.


Taking a strategic approach when designing a new website or redesigning an existing website is critical. Mapping out your individual customer journey using primary and secondary research provide an essential guide to understanding consumer behavior as it relates to your customers.

The insight and analysis from customer journey mapping combined with marketing research provide an intimate understanding of the consumer behavior. As a result, this will help move your customer through the five-step purchase decision model and achieve your goals.

Apple, WSJ, and Southwest provide three organization types that include product-dominant, content-dominant, and service-dominant to give a broad spectrum of different applications. An analysis of these different businesses using the five-step purchase decision model provides actionable insight to benchmark your web design project.

It is no accident how these companies achieve success. Analyzing how they address consumer behavior within their web design to achieve their business and marketing goals that give them a distinct competitive advantage in the marketplace.








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