Are there hidden meanings in your website?

Design your website intelligentlyWhat are your reactions to these rather strange sayings? “I 5683 Twitter” or alternatively “I 4283 Twitter”. Yes, it is code and – if the research is right – you should have had a positive reaction to the first saying and a negative reaction to the second one. The reason is that the numbers represent words and you are able to recognise those words subconsciously. Even if you haven’t been able to work them out just yet, your subconscious brain knows what they are.

The study, conducted by psychologists in Germany, shows that we make meanings from things which have no apparent or immediately obvious meaning. In the case of the research they were looking at phone numbers. So, to put you out of your misery over the two sayings above, the first one 5683 spells out “love” and the second, 4283 spells out “hate” on a telephone keypad. We are so used to using keypads for sending out text messages we can easily work out subconsciously what a set of words spell.

In the research, for instance, the psychologists found that people preferred to dial positive numbers, such as 37326 – which spells “dream” – compared with a negative number, like 75463 – which spells “slime”. Similarly, they found that when the numbers spelled out words associated with the topic of a business, this was more attractive to people than any alternative number. So, for example, the number 267773 was preferred for funeral directors because it spells “corpse”. Similarly, a dating agency with 5683 (love) in their number is going to get more calls because people associate the number – subliminally – with the nature of the business.

So, one of the first things you might do to boost your business is check your own phone number and see what it spells. If it doesn’t spell out what you want or is not associated with your business, then perhaps getting another number which you can permanently divert to your existing number will help.

However, you should also consider your website. What this research reveals is that the subconscious brain can work out patterns more quickly and easily than your conscious mind – plus the subconscious then sends signals to your emotional centres suggesting preferences for one kind of material than another. People preferred the 267773 number for funeral directors without even knowing it spelled “corpse”.  In psychological terms, this is known as “implicit memory“. It basically means that memories of previous experiences come into play without us being consciously aware of them. For the phone number study, the use of keypads to spell words means we are aware of number-letter representations. On the Internet, with web pages other implicit memories could come into play.

For instance, upward hand movements are associated in most cultures with positive actions – thumbs up, cheering, waving and so on. So, if your website asks for upward mouse movements implicit memory would suggest this is a positive action. Hence putting your “buy now” button at the bottom of the page could be seen as negative as it is a downward mouse movement. Question: where does Amazon put its “buy now” or “add to basket” button? You guessed it – top right; a hand movement associated with a positive implicit memory.

Similarly, the choice of pictures can be important too as they will trigger implicit memories. If you are a consultant, for instance, perhaps a picture of you in discussion with clients by a roaring fire will help; that will trigger implicit memories of warmth, comfort and thereby help engage more than a picture of you in an office.

Websites are full of hidden meanings which can often help or hinder a business. This study on telephone numbers is a mere reminder to take care of the way in which you trigger implicit memory because it can make or break a deal. Time to think about the hidden meanings in your website, perhaps?


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