This article originally appeared as a Design and Usability Tactics e-newsletter.
By Jim Kukral
Web designers must learn how to motivate users through persuasive design techniques. It's one thing to make it easier for a user to add an item to a shopping cart (usability design); it's another to actually get users to click the Buy button (persuasive design).
Persuasive design techniques focus on "getting the lead" or "closing the sale". It's the function of motivating the user to take action based on the presentation of the promotional material before and after the desired action takes place.
Isn't usability enough?
No. Usability design techniques help users open the door, while persuasive design techniques help users walk through the door.
In today's Web competitive space, it's essential to be persuasive as well as usable. There are a number of reasons to use persuasive design techniques, including increased competition, more advanced users, and better product selection.
Persuasive design tactics focus on making the user feel at ease with your Web site, your products or services, and the overall experience. When users are at ease, they're more likely to take action.
Is persuasive design a form of manipulation?
Andrew Chak, author of Submit Now: Designing Persuasive Websites, doesn't think so. "Persuasive design is not about manipulating users into doing something they don't want to do," he said in an interview with User Interface Engineering. "Instead, the goal of persuasive design is to get users to make the right decision. Designers can accomplish this by doing their best to ensure that users get all of their questions answered about the content. It's about understanding the user's decision process and providing the information and tools to help facilitate a decision."
"For example, I'm currently planning my next vacation. I've just had a baby boy, so I'm very concerned about finding family-friendly facilities. When I visit a hotel site, I'm very interested in finding out what amenities they have for babies, such as cribs. However, if the Web site doesn't provide this content, I can't make a decision. Right there, I'm stuck because I'm worried about whether or not the hotel will provide a crib for my baby," Chak continued.
Is your current Web site persuasive?
If you sell products, take a hard look at your front page and ask yourself, "What specifically helps a user make a choice on this page?" If there is no push to an action item, you aren't being persuasive.
If you sell services, look at your Web site and ask yourself, "What information tells my visitors why they should believe our services are the best?" If that information isn't present, you aren't being persuasive.
Other considerations include: Does your Web site convert leads as well as it should? Are sales moving upward or downward?
More information on persuasive design
The following books can provide you with excellent information on persuasive design techniques:
Jim Kukral has spent the last seven years working in the trenches of Web design, development, and usability for Fortune 500 clients as well as mom-and-pop companies.