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5 Persuasive Web Design Principles

The best way to convince someone to do something is by displaying confidence, being assertive, making your words sound powerful, speaking clearly, looking the part, swearing profusely like Gary Vaynerchuk amongst other things. But how do you persuade without using words?

When it comes to persuasion, the weapon of choice to hand is normally words. To persuade, or to say to get our way, we tend to resort to verbal tactics such as, argumentation, reasoning, cajoling, promising and making deals.

Yet we miss the most powerful means of persuasion humans have – the non-verbal communication. In fact, subconsciously we are greater influenced by the non-verbal communication compared to verbal.

Understanding which non-verbal communication principles can help persuade your audience and increase website conversions.

Show them what they want

According to a study conducted by Hubspot, 76% of consumers considered ease of finding what they came on the website the most important factor in the design of a website.

Source: Hubspot

It’s easy to become obsessed with the perfect design but the truth is that your main focus should be to make your website user friendly and make their experience as frictionless as possible. 

Thoroughly test your website and learn from the insights. Ultimately, only your audience can tell you if they can easily find what they came looking for and if their experience has been joyous or irritating, so ask them!

First impressions count

First impressions matter during physical interactions because we are hard-wired as humans to make assumptions about people when we first encounter them. We make a judgement about someone in the first 4 seconds of the interaction and quickly form an opinion about whether we like them or not. 

Similarly, research shows that we tend to make a decision on whether we like a website or not and whether we’ll stay or leave within the first 0.5 seconds.

Ok, so what makes people like a website?

Google conducted a study and found that there are two factors in which determined how appealing a website is in the eyes of its consumers. 

  • Low visual complexity – simpler the better
  • Looks as expected – the website design is representative of the particular category 
Source: Google Blog

Visual hierarchy

Visual hierarchy is one of the most important principles to consider in web design. In another words, it’s the order in which the user sees things on your website.

Effective web design exploits the principles of visual hierarchy and considers the order in which to display elements in terms of their priority and importance. 

Certain parts of your website will simply be more important than others and therefore thoughtfully utilising visual hierarchy will help you keep your visitors engaged and help navigate them and make their experience pleasant.

See Ikea’s beautifully designed homepage that uses visual hierarchy to navigate the users attention to certain elements through considered placement.

Source: Ikea UK

Conserve attention

Once you’ve made a good impression and piqued your visitor’s interest, you’ll then need to keep them on the website to commit to an action at all costs.

There are a number of ways in which you can help your visitors find what they came looking for.

  • Help them choose something. Often too many options leave people at a loss of what to purchase and the opportunity to get your visitors to make a purchase, complete a form, watch a video or take any other desired action increasingly diminishes. You do not want the visitor to become confused and convince themselves out of committing to the desired action. The chances of the visitor coming back are always evidently low.
  • Don’t be boring! You’re not going to keep people on the website if all the pages look the same. Constantly change the layout to make the information more interesting to digest. Neuroscientist’s say that novelty promotes information transmission. Our brains pay close attention to patterns and quickly starts to ignore them. Use imagery where you can to supplement the body of text and use clear headings to create breakpoints where there is a lot of information.

Promote a single action

You must start with clarity in mind. Determine what actions you want your visitors to take from the website, I refer back to the point: don’t provide too many options to limit confusion and risk the visitor bouncing off.

As a rule of thumb, provide one action per visible screen area to maximise effectiveness of the call to action.

Mailchimp.com make it absolutely clear they want us to sign up to a free trial.

Source: Mail Chimp

Most websites include a secondary call to action and that’s ok as long it’s crystal clear that it’s a secondary call to action.

Ok so that’s great, we know that we should place one call to action (where possible) per visible screen area, but how do we determine where the call to action should go?

A study by Dr. BJ Fogg called the Fogg behaviour model explains that people take action when you present the call to action when their motivation is at their highest and it’s easy to do.

Source: www.behaviormodel.org

In most cases placing the call to action top right will result in higher conversion. According to the Fogg Behaviour Model the motivation is high there because you’re at the start of the journey and it’s easier to do.

Conversely, high motivation and high difficulty will result in frustration. If it’s low motivation and easy to do, it leads to annoyance.

Conclusion

You can influence people using non-verbal communication through persuasive web design. Only a cursory glance at high converting websites will reveal their use of the principles outlined in this article.

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About the author

Mamo has been in the Online Marketing space since 2005, has a background in Software Engineering, User Experience Design and has a deep understanding of the principles of Digital Marketing.

He founded his first company at age 17 and has been instrumental in launching over 300 website builds and executing 100’s of successful marketing campaigns generating millions in revenue.