Personality-Oriented Design

Finding a design your audience will enjoy

Rick Mess       |       September 14, 2020

This article highlights the association between users’ preferences and their psychographic traits. We hope this information will help designers and future website operators to choose the appropriate design specifically for your target audience.

Marketing experts recognize that the conventional approach to describing the target audience is imperfect. It’s not enough to know the users’ social and demographic data to understand their needs and sufficiently meet their requirements. Understanding the psychology of the audience, its goals and motivations, is essential in creating brands, advertising, websites, apps, and online stores, in promoting goods and services. This understanding helps you find common ground with your users, boosting sales and conversion rates. Today, compiling a consumer’s profile is impossible without recognizing their psychographic characteristics.

There’s a lot of info out there on segmenting the audience by psychographic parameters, but we’d like to tell you something that is not widely known by marketing and design specialists: how the user’s personality type influences their design choices, which kinds of visual design are preferred by different target audiences (or core audiences, to be exact).

Let’s briefly overview the main personality types of users. This classification is based on priorities, values, lifestyle, and consumer behaviors. Each personality type is named provisionally. There is no single terminology for distinguishing between personality types, but what matters to us is understanding the main points of difference between user groups. Despite the obvious simplification, this categorization by personality types has been shown to be useful in establishing feedback and meeting the consumers’ requirements.

Note: There’s no point in trying to work out percentages for the different personality types, since it all depends on the objectives of your website / app and its target audience, with each resource dominated by users of a certain type. Trying to establish a link between personality type and age is also fruitless.

The existing consumer personality types are listed in descending orders relative to their prevalence in the marketplace.

1. Conservatives (materialists)

This is a large and relatively homogenous group of users oriented toward traditional values such as routine, family, health, job security, material wellbeing, and conventional leisure activities. It’s tempting to lump all the middle-aged and senior people into this category but it’s not always accurate. Young people can also subscribe to conservative values. Market research estimates the share of conservative consumers in the marketplace as more than 50 percent. This doesn’t mean that half of your audience will be conservative, but it does mean that this type will be prevalent if your product is aimed at a large audience. Conservatives prefer familiar brands and quality goods.

Conservatives seek and aim for wellbeing in all areas of life. They like time-honored values. These people are wary and unenthusiastic about new things. Only after a new product has been tried and approved by others and become commonplace will they buy it. The unwritten law of the conservative is “keeping up with the neighbors.”

This personality type is not fond of creative solutions and unusual artistic concepts. Conservatives prefer a subdued design, a restrained color palette, and no surprises. A conservative user visits a website with specific expectations in mind: to check out the product, to see its advantages and price, to obtain the necessary information. So the design must not be distracting — simply put, it should not exist at all in the user’s perception.

Which does not mean that design aimed at this type of users should be bland and boring. It should be appropriate and measured, with proper and precise highlights and no unnecessary embellishments.

The user interface should be predictable, simple, and logical. Conservatives have neither the time nor the inclination to figure out how to use it.

Conservatives don’t like cartoon illustrations, preferring photos of products, and real people. So if your website offers medical services and most of your users are conservative, real-life photos will be more trustworthy than the best kind of drawings.

The contents should emphasize reliable and tested offers, bolstered by believable reviews with photos. The copy should use words like “reliability,” “stability,” “peace of mind,” “comfort,” “result,” “practical,” “profitable.”

These users can be averse to any redesign, so if you need to do it, it’s better to introduce new features gradually and carefully.

Here’s a sample “conservative” landing page:

Website Design — Bonsai by Outcrowd

2. Principled users

Whatever we call this category, these are people who prioritize non-material values, in contrast to materialistic conservatives. Whereas conservatives believe in “keeping up,” principled users strive to “be themselves.” They can also be called Individualists. Their share in the marketplace is much smaller than that of conservatives, but they are more active and open to new brands.

This group also seeks wellbeing, but they put a much higher value on spiritual harmony, communication, education and learning, self-improvement, and personal growth. For instance, where a conservative will invest in remodeling the nursery, a principled user will spend this money on an educational course or trip for their child.

This group likes physical exercise, travel and guided tours, being outdoors. They are open to new things and generally view them positively, albeit a little skeptically.

This category is generally better educated than the conservatives and has a refined taste, which makes them more demanding when it comes to esthetics and design. These users prefer content that is useful and nice-looking at the same time.

Principled users like trendy design as long as it’s appropriate and does not distract from the contents. Tackiness, poor color choices, and any clashing elements will be instantly recognized and rejected. Principles users prefer their designs to be unique and original — but not shockingly so. The interface does not have to be typical, but neither can it be confusing and challenging: you don’t want your users to wonder “What is going on? Where am I?” To attract this category of users, your designs shouldn’t feature any extra embellishments and creative junk, but at the same time, it must not be too run-of-the-mill.

This category of users generally likes the idea of being offered something special. As mentioned above, they are individualistic and prefer things that make them feel special, promote personal growth, and widen their outlook. They have a good sense of humor, which is useful in creating content (whereas conservatives don’t like joking around).

The way to win their hearts is through unique, individual design, fun and useful content with an overarching idea. Remember, however, that principled users are quite demanding, well-educated, and have discriminating tastes, so the designers will have to put in the effort.

Landing page — Vilego by Outcrowd

3. Sophisticates

This is not an exact name, because it applies to users who like esthetically pleasing, cozy, and cute stuff as they see it. There’s a large percentage of users who put much stock in the visual presentation of a product, be it a physical object or a website interface. These users like things to be attractive, paying attention to packaging, serving, labels, covers, and pictures. They approach the product itself in a similar manner, prioritizing its appearance over everything else.

Women and girls make up a large portion of this group, although there are also many men who choose products based on visual esthetics rather than quality and function.

This category likes the so-called kawaii design, which is a fancy Japanese way of saying nice and cute. In fact, this design can be used for various purposes and audiences, but it’s the sophisticates who are most fond of it. Kawaii design is very friendly and mellow. (Once it stopped being new, conservatives also picked up on it. Children are also naturally drawn to it.)

Mobile application — Plants by Outcrowd

The sophisticates always pick the products in good-looking packaging, they like drawings, clean bright colors, and pastel tones. They like seeing a lot of small details and decorative flourishes. Basically, they like the kind of design that can be called “soft” and “smooth.” Nevertheless, this is not necessarily “female” design. For example, Memphis Style is a good choice for sophisticates of any gender.

Peter Tarka — Design Factory

Design by Lesha Galkin

Sophisticates are the only category of users who welcome “design for design’s sake.”

4. Hedonists

This is the group whose mottos are “Pleasure above all,” “Live life to the fullest,” “Enjoy every moment,” “Celebrate life.” These are usually very emotional people, and therefore any product offer made to them must carry an emotional message.

Hedonists may well have conventional values such as family, home, work, and education, but they prioritize intense emotions, feelings, and impressions. This temperamental group of users likes traveling, extreme sports, having fun, memorable experiences, parties, celebrations, and humor.

This is where you can get really creative! This category of users loves all things bright, innovative, unusual and new, especially coupled with a lively, emotional presentation. A hedonist will rush to buy a black donut, a collapsible fan, or winged running shoes.

In creating designs for the hedonists, you can let your imagination run free. However, don’t let the interface become an arduous quest. These users are impatient and won’t want to waste time looking for things they need. Hedonist design must be based on uniqueness, high contrast, and esthetic minimalism. Anything associated with speed, gratification, and positive vibes is definitely in.

404 — Web Page Design by Outcrowd

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that this category comprises young people only. Hedonists can be people of any age. This personality type is all about living life to the max, satisfying their desires, and demonstrating status.

Whereas a conservative needs a good house, a good car, and good appliances, a hedonist wants the best house, the flashiest car, the trendiest clothes, and the most cutting-edge gadgets. This is what you should exploit in your website’s contents, highlighting the class, prestige, uniqueness and exclusiveness in product descriptions. And the presentation should be vivid and emotional.

Don’t hesitate to use graphics, animations, and 3D effects. Live it up!

Landing Page — 3D-M by Outcrowd

5. Goal-oriented users

This definition does not mean that the other categories are less ambitious. It just means that this target audience has specific goals related to their professional pursuits, career, and success. Their interests are solely professional, their time is limited. For them, emotions are a distraction, they want contents and information, with no frills.

Any specialized website (educational, scientific, business, etc.) usually draws in an audience of goal-oriented users looking to enhance their career or find professionally relevant info. These users value quality and status — not for showing off, but rather for conforming to general norms and stereotypes.

Just like conservatives, this audience prefers restrained design. However, the design should be stylish and symbolize the company’s reliability, reputability, and prestigiousness.

For example, The British Academy website

A classic design is always relevant with this category. Such designs rely on strict rules, namely column structure, logo at the top of the page, menu on top or on the left, simple and legible fonts. The color palette should be subdued and not bright. Graphics and animations should be used sparingly, if at all.

A•LAB Design studio website by Mike | Creative Mints

Afterword

Breaking the audience down by personality types is solely a matter of convenience meant to supplement the traditional social and demographic segmentation. This breakdown should not be used as a basis for compiling a consumer profile, but it does help flesh out that profile. With this article, we’d like to remind website operators and designers that it pays to think of your users as living human beings and not just data points or marketing statistics.


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