5 Key Principles of Persuasive Design | CRO Training by JMarketing

by Joshua Strawczynski

It is one of the biggest challenges of creating an effective website is how to persuade visitors using only written words and images. This is not a new challenge since advertisers have been battling this dilemma for more than a century in the form of traditional print media.

An advantage of modern technology, however, is that interaction can be measured in much greater detail than in the heyday of print. This gives us great insight into what actually works and what doesn’t. It allows us to track behavior, get glimpses into how we make decisions, why we make them, and use this information to build better, more persuasive, and ultimately, more effective websites.

Creating brilliant print advertising is equal parts art and science, and if you think about it, websites are essentially print ads that are dynamic and interactive. This is why many of the principles that guide the creation of effective print ads, also guide the design of effective websites, but with a few modern twists.

Here are the five principles of persuasive web design:

1. Clarity
The most effective websites communicate clearly what they’re about and what they’d like to achieve, quickly. Why does the page exist? What is its purpose? What does it want you to do? If these questions aren’t answered within the first couple of seconds, you’ve lost the visitor and potential client.

We make decisions instantly, we make a judgment of those we meet within the first couple of seconds of meeting them. The same goes for websites. Visitors form an opinion about your site (and your brand) with the first few seconds of landing on the page, so you’ve got to make those first few counts.

The best way to do this is to design a website that is clear about what it’s about, what it wants from you, and what it wants you to do — anything from buying a product or service, casting a vote, or make a small donation. To achieve this you have to find a balance between visuals and copy — lots of visuals combined with concise, high-impact copy.

We are visual beings, and our brains are much better at processing images than it is at processing copy, so much so that we have the ability to completely understand an object’s function by just looking at a picture. For instance road traffic signs — the pictograms on road signs are much easier for our brains to digest, making it easier, and safer, than having to read the instructions in words.

With this in mind, whatever you are selling a product, show it.

When it comes to copy, less is most definitely more. The most effective physical billboards contain only seven words or less. Anything longer will make it hard for people to read while driving past. The same principle applies to websites — you want visitors to be able to understand what the copy is communicating the moment they land on your site. If it takes you more than a couple of seconds to read the copy, then it’s too long.

2. Visual Appeal
The internet is all about visuals. People like to look at beautiful things, and studies have shown that the overwhelming majority of web users rate visuals and design far more important than written content. It is thus critical that your site is simple and beautiful — because if people don’t like what they see, then you’ve lost a potential sale. Having a visually appealing site is so important that people are willing to put up with a site that’s difficult to navigate if it’s beautifully designed.

So what is great design? Two things: simplicity and familiarity. Keep your visuals beautiful, but simple, and design your site around familiar layouts. This way a visitor will almost intuitively know how to navigate your site.

3. Visual Hierarchy
When it comes to visuals on websites, bigger is almost always better. We see visuals in a hierarchy — whatever appears the biggest on a website is deemed to be the most important. Create strong visual hierarchies to guide visitors towards that which you want them to focus on most. If something is not relevant to achieving the main goal of your website, make it small and stick it in a corner. If people really want to read about your company’s history, the will go find it.

Creating a visual hierarchy is important to guide the eye of the visitor towards what you’d like them to see first. If you’re selling lawnmowers, make sure that images of the lawnmowers occupy the largest amount of your site’s visual real estate. Just don’t forget to give it some space.

Even the best, most beautiful visuals can get lost among the clutter. White space plays as big a part in creating effective visuals as the images themselves. It creates contrast and allows your ‘hero’ image to stand out. The fewer things on screen, the more your lawnmowers will stand out.

In short, when it comes to visuals — bigger is better, but less is more.

4. ATTENTION! HOLD IT!
Any salesperson will tell you that one of the most important things in selling is getting a potential customer’s attention, and holding it until the deal has been closed. The same is true for websites — get attention, hold attention, close the sale.

But how do you close a sale in an environment of short online attention spans and information overload? Here’s how:

Above the fold & to the left
According to research, we spend the greatest portion of our viewing time above the ‘fold’ and towards the left side of the screen. If you want a visitor to notice something, this is where you put it. Test your site on many devices to determine exactly what lies above the fold.

What are you selling?
Make sure your value proposition is clear, and that there is a clear call-to-action.

Big pictures
Studies have shown that using bigger, larger-than-life photography can draw a lot of attention to your site.

Only human
Unsurprisingly, photos of humans genuinely smiling are great for capturing attention. Just make sure you pay attention to body language, no ‘closed’ poses like arms crossed.

In contrast
Contrast grabs attention. Anything from then and now, before and after, with or without, unexpected opposing colors, short and tall. All of these are great at getting attention.

Copy that
As mentioned before, when it comes to copy, less is definitely more — the longer the copy, the higher the chance of losing your visitors’ attention. Here are a couple of guidelines:

  • To make sure you keep your copy, keep paragraph length to a maximum of four lines
  • Include a subheading every two paragraphs. People tend to scan-read on the internet and one of the most prominent ways is to scan headings and subheadings.
  • Switch up which side of the page the copy appears to break the monotony of the text.
  • Make copy fun to read and people will pay attention.

Change the layout
Don’t keep each page on your site the same — even simple layout changes are effective to get and keep people’s attention. It also makes it easier to read your site.

Limited choice & make it big
The more choice you offer people, the more indecisive they get. By keeping choices limited, you can direct focus to specific items on your site. A way to break up large numbers of products and to narrow down choice is to put them into categories. By limiting choice on your site, you also create space to insert bigger images, which attracts more attention.

5. One action per screen, when ready
Every page on your website should have a purpose, an action that you want the visitor to take, and only one. If you want them to do too many things on the page, then you run the risk of overwhelming them. However, if you DO require a visitor to take more than one action on a page, you should put them in a visual hierarchy so that it’s easy to see which action is the most important.

A big problem with call-to-actions on websites is that they appear too soon before the visitor/customer is ready to take that action. A really bad recent website trend is a pop-up window asking you to subscribe to their newsletter or join their loyalty program as you land on the site before you’ve even had a chance to look at the page.

You need to build a relationship first, make sure the visitor has enough information to be able to take the particular action. How much information is needed can be difficult to determine, but it’s worth the effort as it can have a great impact on how they interact with your site, and whether they take the action you desire.

An effective website is a persuasive website. People are getting extremely discerning about their online experience, so just having a site is no longer enough — it has to persuade them to stay, to spend time, and to take action.

Take the short cut to digital marketing success. Contact JMarketing and discuss your options to increase your conversion rates, and immediately skyrocket your results. Click this link and complete the enquiry form, we will contact you back right away.

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About the Author

Joshua Strawczynski
Managing Director
www.jmarketing.agency

An expert in influencing consumer behaviour online. Josh is an award-winning digital marketer, business manager and best selling author. He regularly appears in the media, providing insights into using influence tactics to enhance marketing strategy effectiveness.

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