26 Sep Web Design 101: Make Your Users Anxious But Not Too Anxious

“Interstitial Anxiety” may sound like a term that belongs more in your Freshman Psych textbook than a blog post about web design. But, if you’re building your website, it’s something you’re probably already familiar with, even if you’ve never been able to put your finger on it. And while this feeling can occur organically, harnessing the general public’s expectations of website functionality and twisting it to work in your favor may be one of the biggest design trends we’ll see in 2017.


What is It?

We’ve all come across slow websites – whether it’s because of overzealous designers or an outdated browser – you find yourself clicking on a link and waiting…and waiting. You might find yourself wondering if there’s something wrong with the site, even if you should click away, and then finally, whatever you’re waiting on loads. That feeling you get in between ‘click’ and ‘load’ is what web designers – specifically User Experience or U/X designers – call Interstitial Anxiety, and depending on where and how intentionally it is implemented, it can make or break the user experience.


Anticipation Draws Attention

Generally, a slow load time on a website is something to be avoided at all costs. However, when this slight delay in gratification is targeted and used intelligently, it can be a new and interesting way to highlight information or features within a page. While the focus on interstitial anxiety as a page element is new, it’s actually an overlooked feature in one of the biggest web design trends of the past 5 years – parallax design. Think back to the last time you scrolled through a parallax site (visit our home page if it’s been a while!) as you scroll down, you see a ‘preview’ of the next bar or box of information, this piques your interest and keeps you scrolling. Intentional Interstitial Anxiety isolates this effect and identifies other places in a site where the heightened emotion that comes with anticipation would benefit the information on the page.


Too Much of a Good Thing

As we’ve hinted at multiple times throughout this post, Interstitial Anxiety is not always a good thing, and should be used sparingly on a website. Be careful not to unintentionally mimic a poorly designed or ‘heavy’ site, by avoiding the effect on page loads, image loads, or even when primary page information is loading. If you make your user too anxious, they may suspect something is wrong with your site, or simply get too frustrated to stick around and wait for things to load.


Put It to Work for You

So, how do you use Interstitial Anxiety to highlight site information without driving up your bounce rate? Here are a few simple rules to keep in mind when trying to build anticipation without going overboard.

  1. Work in Seconds – the fewer the better. You’re not trying to make your user wait around for the information they want, you’re just trying to make it more exciting. So keep your delays short and you’ll keep their interest.
  2. Split the load – one great way to grow anticipation without annoying your user is to make it obvious that something is happening – they just don’t know what it is yet. Set a slider to introduce the background photo a few seconds before a copy point. Or incorporate a brief introductory video (less than 30 seconds) that plays before collapsing to introduce a copy-heavy page.
  3. Give a Preview – If you’re working with a parallax site, use that functionality to your advantage. Allow a preview of the next page or section to show at that bottom of the current screen for ‘sneak preview’ of what’s to come.
  4. Less is More – this isn’t a feature that needs to be worked into every page of your site, consider adding it one or two pages – like the homepage, or your ‘about’ page.


Too much Interstitial Anxiety can ruin your site, but just the right amount can highlight information and create a more exciting experience than your average browsing session. Need help striking that balance? Give Idea Associates a call to see what we can do for you!

Sibet B Freides