How web design determines what you buy online

With Black Friday approaching, you may be considering an online shopping spree. But how does web design ensure that we find what we’re looking for and that we actually go ahead and buy it?

We’ve all been there: you log onto your favourite online shop to buy one important thing. Then you think of the next important buy, and start reading the reviews on a related product, and next thing you know, the number of items in your basket is a lot bigger than you originally intended. Some of this is down to consumer habits, of course. But how much of it is a result of the e-commerce website’s design? Come and take a look behind the curtain to see what really impacts shopping online.

Consumers have more control – so how are they influenced?

We’ve now got more autonomy than ever when shopping online. Consumers can filter by price, relevancy, and what’s new on virtually any e-commerce site; and they can utilise search bars to personalise their bargain hunt to their heart’s content. According to a report by KPMG, the top two consumer considerations when buying a product are price; and shopping from their preferred website. So, with all this control and preference, how are shoppers still influenced so easily? You’d be surprised to learn that even the subtlest of changes can determine which product shoppers gravitate towards.

The colour palette of persuasion

There is a psychology of colour theory worked into marketing that you may have heard of before, for example, red encouraging appetite. This is why so many fast-food signs involve this colour: McDonalds, KFC, Pizza Hut and Burger King (is your stomach rumbling? Sorry about that) all adopt this colour scheme – because it works!


A study named ‘When Web Pages Influence Choice: Effects of Visual Primes on Experts and Novices’ conducted in 2002 found that ‘priming’ website visitors with background colours and images could influence decision-making on e-commerce sites. That’s right: background colour makes people choose one product over another. When the researchers asked visitors to choose between two types of car, they found that visitors who had been primed on money –the website’s background was green with pennies on it – looked at price information longer than those who had been primed on safety. 

From a web design standpoint, this can definitely be used to push new products to an audience or show old stock in a new light, but it’s not all web designers trying to trick you into buying a certain thing. You may want to alter a user’s behaviour for other reasons, too, and small tweaks to a site’s vibrancy can achieve that. For example, if a website is heavy in information that needs to be read carefully, the website designer may opt for a darker, more neutral colour scheme to relax the reader from rapidly scanning and help them process the information. Keep an eye out for different colours next time you’re browsing online: you might just see some of these design tricks in practice! 

Ease of use

It’s no surprise that ease of use has an impact on buying habits. How likely are you to continue shopping on a website that’s slow and unresponsive? According to Google, if a website takes longer than three seconds to load, just over half of visitors will leave the page. Web designers who are experts in their field will prioritise website loading speed as much as any colour-psychology or design aesthetics, as a quick website is a website that brings in results.


It’s named a ‘call to action’ for a reason: the Content Marketing Institute claims that compelling copy draws 7.8 times more site traffic, showing that a talented copywriter can pull in as much business as a designer. The right words mixed with impactful design make for an offer that some online shoppers can’t refuse!

Web design is a powerful tool, so much so that it can influence consumer behaviour significantly. This blog exploring the power of a savvy designer and talented copywriter is purely for fun – but in all seriousness, we hope you’ll keep a close eye on that Amazon basket during Black Friday!

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Digital Strategy Analyst

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How web design determines what you buy online
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Digital Strategy Analyst