Flow in Web Design

Theory of Flow – Losing the Feeling of Self Consciousness

According to psychology researcher Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi, flow is a positive, highly enjoyable state of consciousness that occurs when our perceived skills match the perceived challenges we are undertaking. We lose our sense of self and time distorts. People who have experienced flow consistently report the same nine dimensions:

  • Clear goals
  • Unambiguous and immediate feedback
  • Skills that just match challenges
  • Merging of action and awareness
  • Centering of attention on a limited stimulus field
  • A sense of potential control
  • A loss of self-consciousness
  • An altered sense of time
  • An autotelic experience

Flow Online

Marketers Hoffman and Novak extended Csíkszentmihályi’s Theory of Flow by relating it to users’ activities on the Internet. The prerequisites for flow online relates to Csíkszentmihályi’s Theory of Flow. Flow online is determined by:

  • High levels of skill and control
  • High levels of challenge and engagement
  • Focused attention
  • Is enhanced by interactivity and telepresence—users feel like part of the action

One such example of flow online is Facebook. Facebook is user-friendly and gives you the amount of control you need. It offers challenge and engagement through its game apps. You are focused and there is interactivity on there with your friends. You feel like you are living their world through their pictures and updates.

Flow in Web Design

It is important to take into account flow in web design to ensure that users are getting what they want out of the online experience—be it targeted experiential or goal-directed. Users wanting experiential flow are usually surfing for fun, while users wanting goal-directed flow are usually shopping, looking for information, etc.

Depending on the purpose of your website, you create components, look and feel to allow users to achieve what they want from it. Here are some factors that we think affects to ability for your users to experience flow online:

  • Follow basic rules: It is important to follow basic rules of websites. Users understand that websites work a certain way and use their past experience to aide them in navigating future sites. For example, a basic rule is that colored or underlined words are usually a link. Most people will know to click on it to open another web page. An example of not following basic rules is having a navigation bar at the bottom of the page. This will definitely confuse users and disrupt flow online.
  • Level of skills: It is important to match the interface to the user skills. You need to understand your target audience and ensure that the website matches their skills set. If your target audience is users with basic internet skills, you want to create a website that is as simple as possible with easy navigation and clear instructions for them to experience flow online.
  • Speed: Your pages need to load quickly to prevent users from getting impatient—thus leaving the site. Ensure that your images are optimized for web view and website is free from codes that will slow down the loading speed. A good SEO friendly CMS is able to optimize your website for speed.
  • Good navigation: Good navigation gives the users control, allowing them to know where to look for the information that they need, thus experiencing flow online. Top and side navigations are standards that majority of websites use. Extras that would help include bread crumbs and site maps. These allow users to visualize the structure of your website.

The challenge is for web marketers to offer websites that allow users to experience flow online. Our web development team understands the flow in web design concepts and can create websites that allow your users to experience flow online.

Please contact our web development team to find out how they can help create a website that helps you achieve your goals.