So, does design really matter? Is it worth a few extra hours to think carefully about the visual aspects of the content you publish online? Maybe. Let’s take a look at what basic behavioral psychology has taught us about superficial tendencies related to a visual stimulus.
Maybe you remember Psych 101 back in college? I certainly do. My professor, Mr. Krull (not a full professor yet, hence no “Dr.”, that’s another story entirely), was an exceptional teacher; a bit of a rarity at an academic institution where so much emphasis is placed on “publish or perish”. Because Mr. Krull was such an amazing teacher, I can clearly remember our discussion of the “Halo Effect”. It is one of the rare gems I actually pulled from my $60,000 education; possibly because it simply made sense (something I’ve always thought about behavioral psychology).
The “Halo Effect” is this: if you find something attractive about someone, you will naturally attribute other unsubstantiated positive attributes to that person. So, for example, if you find someone at a party attractive, then you might also think they are respectable and generous; even though you have no evidence from which to draw that conclusion. Because they are attractive, you simply assume they are respectable and generous. It’s a bit depressing to think that our natural state is so superficial. But, instead of dwelling on the negative, why don’t we flip it and make it a positive.
Lets look at how you can make this not so “warm and fuzzy” fact apply to your online content (eportfolio). Take a moment and reflect on it. How does the information in your eportfolio look? Is it well organized, visually appealing, even attractive? Is it possible that Halo Effect principles also apply to the online, visual representation of you in your eportfolio? If you took the time to present your information well, wouldn’t the audience absorbing that information draw conclusions about you that you never presented in your artifacts? Now, giving consideration to the Halo Effect, isn’t it possible that those viewing your content could decide, because they find your content attractive, that you have many other positive characteristics that aren’t overtly demonstrated in your eportfolio? Yes, of course, it’s completely possible. Because of this superficial tendency, if your eportfolio is presented well, the audience viewing it will draw unsubstantiated conclusions about you. Wouldn’t you want those to be positive unsubstantiated conclusions?
Taking the time to visually improve how you are representing yourself online, will pay dividends in the future. The Halo Effect is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the powerful effects of visually stimulating artifacts. There is more research on this topic than you can shake your finger at, so sit tight – there’s more to come!
Geoff on g+