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Proceedings of the German UP / Mensch u. Computer Conference, Berlin, September 2009


The science behind persuasive design: Capturing the
emotional triggers that transform exploration into action.
Kath Straub                       Arno Bublitz
Usability.ORG                     Human Factors International
Tucson, Arizona USA               Hamburg, Germany
kath@usability.org                arno.bublitz@humanfactors.com




Abstract
Today, interactions with prospective           Once key emotional responses are          Keywords
customers start on the web. This means         understood, organizations can             persuasive design, content, content
to be useful, a website must be more           develop content and messaging                 strategy, information design,
than usable. It must also be engaging          strategies which employ principles of         Information mapping, trust, emotion
and persuasive, like a charismatic             social psychology to amplifying
salesman.                                      customers motivations and minimize
                                               their concerns.
Persuasive designs do not „just happen“.
They are derived through rigorous              By extending the traditional usability
research identifying the emotional             methods into the domains of
triggers that drive a customer to commit       emotional response and human
or fears that hinder a customer from           decision making, designers can
acting.                                        create content that transform
                                               exploration into commitment.


10 From exploration to action
     The role of organizational websites       If you’ve ever encountered a “used        from exploration to action results in
have morphed. Initially sites offered          car salesman”, you know how this          conversion.
“interactive” brochures, self-serve            works.
                                                                                         To be effective today, websites need to
catalogs and print-it-yourself access to
                                               1.1 Characteristics of good               do the same thing.
reports from known sources. Today                  salesmen applied to websites
websites act as sales representative,                                                    20 Designing persuasive websites
shaping the a customer’s first impression           Good salesmen listen to learn
                                               what customers want and needs as               Creating persuasive designs extends
of the organization. And first impressions
                                               part of the initial conversation.         the domain of usability beyond the
count. Is the organization smart? Do they
                                                                                         website. Usability is still critically
understand my needs? Do they have my           They explore peoples’ aspirations.        important. Users must be able to execute
best interests in mind? Or is it all about     But they also listen for their limits,    key and frequent tasks easily and
the sale? Do I trust them? Do I want to        their fears and their barriers to         efficiently. But as the role of the web has
do business with them?                         commitment. Good salesmen then            expanded within the broader
Impression formation is fast. But it is also   shape the conversation to amplify the     communication strategy, success criteria
complex. Information that is not relevant      customer’s desire and need to             for the website has expanded. Today,
often creeps into the impression               engage, explaining why the product        effective websites influence beliefs and
formation process For instance, in             will fulfill their needs, improve their   change behaviors.
situations where there is a real               status and/or demonstrate their good
                                               taste . The best salesmen recognize       2.1 How persuasion interviews differ
salesman, my first impression of the
salesman influences my impression of           that is also important to assess and           In usability research, we seek to
the organization Does this person know         address potential customer’s              articulate and design to the user’s mental
his products/services? Is he (not just         reservations. Through a subtle            model as they complete a journey. This
listening to, but) hearing me? How             combination of assurance and social       means asking participants to describe
scripted pressured is our interaction? Is      pressure salesmen shift the               what they are doing and why along the
he diagnosing my needs and creating the        customers beliefs and, by extension       way. Essentially participants “ watch”
right package? Or just looking for an          their behavior. This transformation       themselves act, and providing a play by
upsell?                                                                                  play for those actions. The actions are




                                                                                                                                 1
concrete and the descriptions are             corresponding to the two levels of
objective. Even so, usability interviews      commitment, which must be
                                                                                                             Join
can be challenging. Users tend to drift       addressed separately in the content.
down to describing their experience of                                                   This link leads users to information about
                                              1)   Am I convinced that this
the action rather than the actions                                                       how to joint the organization and the
                                                   product/services meets my
themselves (see Figure 1.)                                                               benefits that members enjoy. The single
                                                   needs? Does it fulfill a need or
                                                                                         word “join” clearly describes what user
                                                   reduce a drive?
                                                                                         can do in section of the site. To that end,
                                              2)   Am I convinced that this is the       it is a very usable link. Motivated joiners
                                                   right organization for me to do       will have no difficulty understanding how
                                                   business with? Do I trust them?       and where to join on this site. But the
                                                   Will they help me know/do what        role of the web today is not to service
                                                   is best for me?                       users motivated to convert on a known
                                                                                         product from a known firm. Rather it is to
                                              In today’s web communication space,
                                                                                         motivate new customers to explore, tip
                                              both are necessary and neither alone
Figure 1. Levels of description for the                                                  and commit.
customer experience                           is sufficient. Most organizations know
                                              how to “sell” their products online--      As such, the usable link fails to “sell” the
                                              they have been doing that for years.       content in that site section which, in turn,
                                              Fewer organizations know how to sell       sells the professional society to
Persuasion design interviews are very
                                              themselves. In the real world, a           explorers. Consider this alternative:
different. While there may be a series of
                                              salesman strikes up a conversation
topics to explore, there is typically no                                                                  Why join?
                                              with a prospective customer and,
specific script of questions to follow.
                                              within that conversation, explores         This link is more persuasive because it
Discovery flows via guided explorations
                                              motivations and barriers to                conveys the information value of content
of the participants’ experiences the
                                              commitment. He then reshapes his           in this section: learn about the benefits of
emotions that occur beneath and before
                                              pitch to address those emotions in         membership. Framed as a question (and
behaviors and decisions.
                                              real time.                                 providing an answer), it feels more
Precursor feelings are often difficult for                                               conversational that could provide the
                                              But the web is not real time. So
participants to access or articulate.                                                    right information to tip users toward
                                              accomplishing a similar ‘pitch’ in the
Keeping participants at this level of                                                    action.
                                              web space means understanding
description often entails laddering,
                                              enough about your consumer                 Now consider the third example:
pressuring participants to forge into
                                              segments to predict their motivations
areas of self exploration. (It is important                                                              Why I joined
                                              and commitment challenges to design
to note the difference between describing
                                              that conversation.                         This final link applies principles of the
emotional but visible responses to
                                                                                         social psychology of influence to make
experiences and describing abstract
                                                                                         the call to action mostengaging. “Why I
feelings that drive beliefs and behaviors.)
                                              30 From copy to persuasive                 joined” conveys that the content includes
Persuasive interviews force participants         content                                 testimonials in addition to simple
into (often somewhat uncomfortable) self         The last step in creating               descriptions of the benefits. Testimonials
discovery. (See level 3 in Figure1.)          persuasive copy is to apply the social     demonstrate that other people (ideally
Participants will tend to drift back up to    psychology of influence to encourage       people similar others) find membership
describing their experiences rather than      users to take action.                      valuable. This type of evidence, called
the emotions surrounding it. Managing                                                    Social Proof, helps users short-cut the
this level of interview requires an           Historically the web has been about        evaluation-to-decision process based on
experienced, empathetic interviewer           getting things done .To that end, calls    the logic that if other similar people join, it
capable of gently pushing participants        to action on the web have traditionally    must be a sensible thing to do.
beyond their comfort zone while               been about actions. Supporting that
                                              goal, best practices have stipulated       40 From copy to persuasive content
effectively managing any emotional
discovery. product/services itself.           that the calls to action (or link names)        Just as with usability, designing
Therapeutic interview training and            should be verbs.                           effective content is a two part process.
experience is helpful.                        In persuasive design, describing the       First you need to understand your users
                                              action is not sufficient. It is also       emotions, aspirations and fears. Then
                                              important to convey the benefits           you need to design content—or
2.2 Applying the findings to the              conferred by the action. Consider this     conversation-- to anticipate and address
    message/content strategy                                                             those emotions. Within the design stage,
                                              example from a prominent
    After analysis, persuasion interviews     international professional society         social psychology strategies can be
describe a set of prioritized emotional       website site:                              applied to amplify emotions, driving
themes that must be addressed through                                                    consumers toward commitment and
engaging copy. The themes                                                                action.




                                                                                                                                     2
3

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The science behind persuasive design: Capturing the emotional triggers that transform exploration into action

  • 1. Proceedings of the German UP / Mensch u. Computer Conference, Berlin, September 2009 The science behind persuasive design: Capturing the emotional triggers that transform exploration into action. Kath Straub Arno Bublitz Usability.ORG Human Factors International Tucson, Arizona USA Hamburg, Germany kath@usability.org arno.bublitz@humanfactors.com Abstract Today, interactions with prospective Once key emotional responses are Keywords customers start on the web. This means understood, organizations can persuasive design, content, content to be useful, a website must be more develop content and messaging strategy, information design, than usable. It must also be engaging strategies which employ principles of Information mapping, trust, emotion and persuasive, like a charismatic social psychology to amplifying salesman. customers motivations and minimize their concerns. Persuasive designs do not „just happen“. They are derived through rigorous By extending the traditional usability research identifying the emotional methods into the domains of triggers that drive a customer to commit emotional response and human or fears that hinder a customer from decision making, designers can acting. create content that transform exploration into commitment. 10 From exploration to action The role of organizational websites If you’ve ever encountered a “used from exploration to action results in have morphed. Initially sites offered car salesman”, you know how this conversion. “interactive” brochures, self-serve works. To be effective today, websites need to catalogs and print-it-yourself access to 1.1 Characteristics of good do the same thing. reports from known sources. Today salesmen applied to websites websites act as sales representative, 20 Designing persuasive websites shaping the a customer’s first impression Good salesmen listen to learn what customers want and needs as Creating persuasive designs extends of the organization. And first impressions part of the initial conversation. the domain of usability beyond the count. Is the organization smart? Do they website. Usability is still critically understand my needs? Do they have my They explore peoples’ aspirations. important. Users must be able to execute best interests in mind? Or is it all about But they also listen for their limits, key and frequent tasks easily and the sale? Do I trust them? Do I want to their fears and their barriers to efficiently. But as the role of the web has do business with them? commitment. Good salesmen then expanded within the broader Impression formation is fast. But it is also shape the conversation to amplify the communication strategy, success criteria complex. Information that is not relevant customer’s desire and need to for the website has expanded. Today, often creeps into the impression engage, explaining why the product effective websites influence beliefs and formation process For instance, in will fulfill their needs, improve their change behaviors. situations where there is a real status and/or demonstrate their good taste . The best salesmen recognize 2.1 How persuasion interviews differ salesman, my first impression of the salesman influences my impression of that is also important to assess and In usability research, we seek to the organization Does this person know address potential customer’s articulate and design to the user’s mental his products/services? Is he (not just reservations. Through a subtle model as they complete a journey. This listening to, but) hearing me? How combination of assurance and social means asking participants to describe scripted pressured is our interaction? Is pressure salesmen shift the what they are doing and why along the he diagnosing my needs and creating the customers beliefs and, by extension way. Essentially participants “ watch” right package? Or just looking for an their behavior. This transformation themselves act, and providing a play by upsell? play for those actions. The actions are 1
  • 2. concrete and the descriptions are corresponding to the two levels of objective. Even so, usability interviews commitment, which must be Join can be challenging. Users tend to drift addressed separately in the content. down to describing their experience of This link leads users to information about 1) Am I convinced that this the action rather than the actions how to joint the organization and the product/services meets my themselves (see Figure 1.) benefits that members enjoy. The single needs? Does it fulfill a need or word “join” clearly describes what user reduce a drive? can do in section of the site. To that end, 2) Am I convinced that this is the it is a very usable link. Motivated joiners right organization for me to do will have no difficulty understanding how business with? Do I trust them? and where to join on this site. But the Will they help me know/do what role of the web today is not to service is best for me? users motivated to convert on a known product from a known firm. Rather it is to In today’s web communication space, motivate new customers to explore, tip both are necessary and neither alone Figure 1. Levels of description for the and commit. customer experience is sufficient. Most organizations know how to “sell” their products online-- As such, the usable link fails to “sell” the they have been doing that for years. content in that site section which, in turn, Fewer organizations know how to sell sells the professional society to Persuasion design interviews are very themselves. In the real world, a explorers. Consider this alternative: different. While there may be a series of salesman strikes up a conversation topics to explore, there is typically no Why join? with a prospective customer and, specific script of questions to follow. within that conversation, explores This link is more persuasive because it Discovery flows via guided explorations motivations and barriers to conveys the information value of content of the participants’ experiences the commitment. He then reshapes his in this section: learn about the benefits of emotions that occur beneath and before pitch to address those emotions in membership. Framed as a question (and behaviors and decisions. real time. providing an answer), it feels more Precursor feelings are often difficult for conversational that could provide the But the web is not real time. So participants to access or articulate. right information to tip users toward accomplishing a similar ‘pitch’ in the Keeping participants at this level of action. web space means understanding description often entails laddering, enough about your consumer Now consider the third example: pressuring participants to forge into segments to predict their motivations areas of self exploration. (It is important Why I joined and commitment challenges to design to note the difference between describing that conversation. This final link applies principles of the emotional but visible responses to social psychology of influence to make experiences and describing abstract the call to action mostengaging. “Why I feelings that drive beliefs and behaviors.) 30 From copy to persuasive joined” conveys that the content includes Persuasive interviews force participants content testimonials in addition to simple into (often somewhat uncomfortable) self The last step in creating descriptions of the benefits. Testimonials discovery. (See level 3 in Figure1.) persuasive copy is to apply the social demonstrate that other people (ideally Participants will tend to drift back up to psychology of influence to encourage people similar others) find membership describing their experiences rather than users to take action. valuable. This type of evidence, called the emotions surrounding it. Managing Social Proof, helps users short-cut the this level of interview requires an Historically the web has been about evaluation-to-decision process based on experienced, empathetic interviewer getting things done .To that end, calls the logic that if other similar people join, it capable of gently pushing participants to action on the web have traditionally must be a sensible thing to do. beyond their comfort zone while been about actions. Supporting that goal, best practices have stipulated 40 From copy to persuasive content effectively managing any emotional discovery. product/services itself. that the calls to action (or link names) Just as with usability, designing Therapeutic interview training and should be verbs. effective content is a two part process. experience is helpful. In persuasive design, describing the First you need to understand your users action is not sufficient. It is also emotions, aspirations and fears. Then important to convey the benefits you need to design content—or 2.2 Applying the findings to the conferred by the action. Consider this conversation-- to anticipate and address message/content strategy those emotions. Within the design stage, example from a prominent After analysis, persuasion interviews international professional society social psychology strategies can be describe a set of prioritized emotional website site: applied to amplify emotions, driving themes that must be addressed through consumers toward commitment and engaging copy. The themes action. 2
  • 3. 3