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Persuasive Design – using psychology to optimise website performance

Guest Blogger: Simon Duke, Head of User Experience, Innovation Digital

Persuasive design is a fascinating area; combining human psychology with online marketing and website usability. As marketers, if we use persuasive design techniques well, we can influence users and subtlety change their behaviour.

One theory behind persuasive design that resonates well with me was developed by Robert Cialdini and described in his book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, first published in 1984. What I particularly like is that although the theory was developed around traditional advertising methods, it works equally well online.

The Weapons of Influence

The core element behind Cialdini’s theory of persuasion is that we have so many decisions to make we can’t give detailed rational thought to each and every one of them; so we focus our thinking on those decisions that are very important. For other decisions we revert back to stock responses. Knowing this, we can use the six ‘weapons of influence’ to persuade people to act as we would want.

Cialdini’s six weapons of influence are:

  • Reciprocation – if we receive a favour from someone, we have an automatic obligation to the person who provided it
  • Commitment – if people commit orally or in writing, to an idea or a goal, they are more likely to honour that commitment
  • Social proof – One method of deciding what is correct is by seeing what other people think is correct
  • Liking – People are persuaded by people like themselves or by those they like
  • Authority – People will obey authority figures even to carry out objectionable acts
  • Scarcity – Perceived scarcity will generate demand

Deploying the weapons online

While developed for traditional advertising, these weapons can be used to influence behaviour online.

It is possible to combine the weapons of influence on the same website or even the same webpage. Take a look at booking.com as there are many persuasive design techniques being used for you to discover.

Finally, an awareness of the weapons of influence has a dual benefit. First, we can seek to use them ourselves to influence behaviour and second, we can identify them when they are deployed against us!

With many thanks to our Guest Blogger and Popular Presenter Simon Duke , Head of User Experience, Innovation Digital!


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