Familiarity and Attractiveness in Pictures and Stories for web design

How are similarity, attractiveness, pictures and stories relevant in the web development, IA and UX fields? Read these summaries and reflections on chapters 8 and 10 in Susan Weinschenk's book, "Neuro Web Design: what makes them click?", to find out.

Chapter 8: Using Similarity, Attractiveness & Association. Are we the same?

You are more likely to listen to and buy from someone who is like you and someone you find attractive.

The old brain is deciding if you should flee, eat, or have sex. All this processing is done in a split second. To process that quickly, the old brain takes a lot of shortcuts and makes broad generalizations. The old brain then sends signals to the mid brain (where emotions are processed) that this is a person that you either can or cannot trust. I wonder how same-sex attraction plays into this?

Similarity builds rapport. We tend to like people more if they share our background, our values and/or our clothes. We also tend to like people more if they are physically attractive, and perceive them to be smarter, more capable, and more intelligent.

If someone who is attractive or liked is paired or associated with something else, the attractiveness or liking bleeds over or rubs off on to the item that is close by.

So, use photos of attractive people on a web site to either match the target audience or match who the audience wants to be. A friend of mine, for instance, reminisced about looking for cute boys on a college website.  If you can't use photos, stories/narratives can also convey similarity.

A powerful advertising combination = 

  • attention-getting,
  • attraction,
  • association, and
  • sex.

Given all the ads we see, I suspect very few of these techniques are a surprise to any of us. :)

Chapter 10: Using Pictures & Stories, the best way to talk to our Unconscious minds

Using the word "story" will grab our attention. If you want to get and hold someone's attention, tell a story. A good story communicates information thoroughly and commits the information to memory.

Combining pictures and stories together is an unbeatable combination to grab our attention, hold our attention, and help us remember.

Story: a description of a character or characters (person, animal, product) and a relating of what happens to the characters over time (past or future).

Everyone is a storyteller: most of the communication we do in our daily lives is in the form of a story.

Your brain naturally chunks. A well-told story conveys great quantities of information in relatively few words in a format that is easily assimilated by the listener or viewer. Some theorize that our brains are wired to process the world around us as a story.

  • Event Structure Perception: A story contains a large amount of information in digestible chunks, allowing us to break down events into smaller units so that we can better understand the information being communicated.
  • Event boundaries: patterns of activity and pause (beginning and end points) that occur where there is a transition in a story, such as a change in location or a different character.


A story not only conveys information, but also allows us to feel what the character in the story feels. When we read or hear a story, our brains are partly reacting as though we are experiencing the story ourselves. It activates many parts of the brain, including:

  • auditory
  • vision & text processing (if it's being read)
  • visual parts
  • emotional part

We think in pictures and visual images. Images are the main content of our thoughts, regardless of the sensory modality in which they are generated and regardless of whether they are about a thing or a process, or about words or other symbols (which we also process as pictures). We pay attention to and remember pictures better than words. We remember only 10 percent of what we hear or read (without pictures).



Weinschenk, Susan M., PhD. (2009). Neuro Web Design: what makes them click?. Berkeley: New Riders.