Visitors to your web site need to have a good experience. Firstly the pages must provide what they were looking for. Then you need good navigation so they can easily find their way around. And you need a search facility so they can look up specific items without having to trawl through everything.

OK – that’s all common sense and any good web designer will tell you much the same. All of these features make your web site good to use and easy to get on with. Fantastic.

But there’s a much more important reason for having all the right features in the right place. If your web site upsets people, makes them have any negative feelings in any way, they will remember it. We tend to remember bad experiences rather than good ones – at least according to some psychologists.

Our memories for events that happen to us – called “episodic memories” – enable us to plan for the future by recalling the past. But there seems to be an inbuilt preference for the easier recall of negative episodic memories. One theory is that this ensures we don’t repeat bad things that happen to us, thereby aiding our survival.

It is this inbuilt preference that influences our daily life. You can probably remember the bad service you have had in a shop, or the nasty waiter in the restaurant, for instance, much more easily than the good shop assistants you meet. Likewise, if your web site is a bad experience for people, they are more likely to be able to recall it compared with a good web site.

So, apart from using good navigation and design to help your web site visitors, doing so is likely to help ensure they don’t have a bad experience. It’s the bad sites we remember more easily – and probably pass on our bad experiences to others more readily as well. Making your web site a good experience for your visitors has some important psychological impacts.

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