Emotions, search and the Web

Emotions are beginning to play a larger part of user behaviour and analysis. This blog post analyses emotions themselves, as well as, identifying web searchers’ emotions.

Emotional web

Increased social media use has resulted in a lot of emotional text. A web full of emotional text creates an emotional web. This also explains why companies offer a range of analytical services including sentiment analysis, for example.

Kamvar and Harris (2011) also found that almost all participants in their peer reviewed study exhibited self-awareness and self-reflection on their own emotions. An emotional web does not require all users to be emotionally intelligent, per se, persons. Almost everyone on Earth gets emotions there are a few explained exceptions to this, for instance, those with autistic traits.

Emotions have helped us survive … We needed emotions in order to react quickly to dangerous stimuli.
Ilana Simons.

Since we need emotions to survive, a vital component of life itself, everyone gets emotions. Therefore everyone should use and alter emotions within web technologies.

Emotive URLs and Bitly

URL shortening services are growing. Bitly incorporate emotions into the host of their new beta URL shortening service. So luvit.me/abcde, for example, means /abcde link contains a webpage that makes the sharer happy. Directly associated emotions include love and optimism. Technology services are starting to see the potential of viewing the Web as an emotional medium.

Words trigger emotions. Using positive and human friendly words therefore taps into our emotional state, for example, “a warm welcome” and “come this way” are informal phrases guiding an emotionally positive user from one area of a website to another. By doing so the user builds positive emotions towards a website increasing, for instance, website interaction. Web word choice impacts online communication.

Photo of faces expressing emotions

Faces express emotions. Source: Łukasz Strachanowski.

Emotions and web searching

If you take a few moments’ to think about your last web searches you may notice that some searches have been better than others. This could be influenced by search engine precision, recall and your choice of appropriate keywords but felt emotions affect your search. Search engine users therefore are emotionally charged, positively or negatively, before they enter your website. First impressions, therefore, are paramount. Emotional designs and word choice are even more important.

Emotions affect cognition and behaviour and search itself requires cognition, in the form of brain power and keyword formulation, and user behaviour affects web interaction.

Similar or related searches can excite some people. Excitement can be a strong indication of a good search experience. Energy will play a large part for these session searchers and therefore need to be tamed out within an emotional design to prevent user’s from getting lost within a website.
A searcher who carefully plans keywords, for example, but retrieves irrelevant results, just like the angry searcher below, may feel sad. Emotions and feelings of disappointment are strong. Blue mooded searchers need cheering up. Bright colours can help.
Emotive words can come into play here. Search engines also stem words from their index which means emotive terms may randomly appear. Emotive words affect cognition and, thus, affect a web search. Love and touch your users to increase positive interactions.
Scared emotions can occur whenever the searcher is fearful that they cannot find a recommended website, for instance, which usually occurs before a search has been carried out. Nervous and anxious feelings will be expressed here. Tense and panic can quickly turn into sad or angry users. UX and designs are key.
The searcher gets what they wanted. The SERP is very relevant and it may be constructed using universal search. The optimistic and positive searcher will have a good look around your newly found website. Make sure it is functional and completely accessible.
If we carry out a web search and no results are relevant then feelings of anger may be present. The searcher feels disappointed and furious. Convert such searchers into happy users by, for example, creating clean and clear messages within a beautiful looking design. Don’t forget to have a researched information architecture.

Getting web emotions

Web technologies need to take into account emotions alongside emotional designs. Researching colour schemes, words and exciting users through designs begins this process. You do, however, need to remember that web searchers experience emotions before they find your website. This knowledge allows designers to design even better technology.


  1. Bitly (2013) Bitly for feelings. [Online] [Accessed on 02nd November 2013]
  2. Kamvar, S.D and Harris, J. (2011) We Feel Fine and Searching the Emotional Web. WSDM ’11.
  3. The Economic Times (no date) Things get sh.rt on web with URL shortening trend. [Online] [Accessed on 02nd November 2013]

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