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7 Principles of Persuasive Web Design Every Designer Needs to Know

In the absence of words, how can you persuade a person using only illustrations or objects? Persuasive design is the answer, getting people to act on what they’ve seen without using any words.

People prefer the defaults, which explains the acceptable social behaviors, for example. People would conform to behaviors that resonate with their values. That’s why. Defaults are considered as designs as well that persuade to act more so when the preferred actions are set as such.

These are hardwired on our brain.

Creating a persuasive web design

What is the psychology behind persuasion

Effective persuasion, wherein the target users are prompted to act and have actually done the required acts from them, is founded on rational thinking. Aside from this, the emotional decision-making process also figures out whether an individual can be persuaded effectively or not.

For the brand, it means understanding how the products and services fit into the lives of the target consumers. Otherwise, it cannot expect these people to convert, even land on the page or site that it wants the consumers to be at in the first place.

Principles of persuasive web design

Several principles guide persuasive web designing, and these are discussed below.


Users choose to click your website from a pool of equally deserving sites – the search engine results pages (SERPs) – because of expectations. The mindset is the site might have the information they are looking for.

While the appearance of the website and the interactive experience it offers are secondary, these factors enable finding the stuff that they are interested in.

When a person first lands on the site, he is making a mental assessment of what the site is about, what he can do while there, and most importantly, whether what he is looking for is there or not. If not, it’s time to move on to the next available website.

There are two design and non-design related factors here. First, there must be elements – visual cues, call to action (CTA) buttons, etc. – that draw the visitor to the information he is looking for. Second, the information must be actually there on the page or website.

With that said, clarity must be evident on virtually all the pages of the website. Visuals and texts must complement one another and work together to communicate the value proposition of the website.

Visual appeal

A person processes visual 50x faster than texts. Visual appeal is this critical, showing the products or services you are selling instead of merely discussing them. A person perceives the usability of the site based on how it appears, and also how he feels when he was navigating at the page level.

Visuals, on the other hand, need to establish that the user is in the right place – that whatever information he is looking for is already there. This piques the interest of the user more than the use of superlatives which brands are fond of using for when telling visitors about their value proposition. But if the website alone looks crap, then this impression would be carry on to the products and services and the overall brand.

To do this, there are certain elements to look at.

Visual hierarchy

Visual hierarchy is more than just about navigation. Visual hierarchy refers to the order of perception, or which the human eyes perceive first.

The objects you see on the website are not created equal – some serve a bigger purpose. You want your design to highlight the most important elements without devaluing the other elements despite their lesser value.

Hierarchy is about making sure that your visitors are looking to the right elements such as the CTA buttons. At times, it is not about color, but making the button stand out. If it means using a different colored one to minimize the noise around your most important CTA button, then so be it.

Create interest

Throughout the years, websites with the simplest designs tend to resonate best with target users. The simpler, the better.

It is also quite interesting for the users to arrive at a website that is prototypical of the industry the brand belongs to. Have you noticed the familiar white background of medical websites? These sites follow a convention and users readily accept it.

For example, if you are an e-commerce website, it is best not to use the given space in its entirety – the negative space – to emphasize the product photos. Remember that people buy based on what they see, not on what they read.

First impression

First impressions matter. It only takes 5 seconds to judge your website, so the visuals should really stand out. Content and design are two deciding factors, although design also includes content-related elements.

If the design cannot compel the users to make the right first impressions, then it is not effective enough. If it cannot drive the expected impressions, what more when it comes to conversion? Some examples of these websites are complex sites with a busy layout and poor search facilities. Websites that lack navigation tools are also included in this category.

Show, don’t tell

Users are here on your website for a reason. If your design cannot show him the information he is looking for, then it’s time to leave. But if you can show him the stuff he needs, he will stay on your website. He will, most probably, explore the website further.

Attention conservation

Once they know that they are in the right place, the next best thing is to conserve their attention. It means preserving them and guiding them to exert the right efforts on the right actions.

Conserving attention is already difficult enough; what more sustaining it? This is another principle behind persuasive web design.

Designing for novelty

First-time visitors are more likely to convert when you direct them to where they should be. It means putting all the information he needs above the fold where most of the viewing time is spent.

The left side of the screen is equally important, so get their attention to focus here.

If you are going to put images, make sure the images convey the message that you intend to. Otherwise, relevance will be lost along the way.

Contrast can also do the trick, although designers should tread on this territory carefully. Again, the brain is trained to easily spot differences. This is a good attention-grabber too.

Power of scarcity

If it means using negative space more to highlight the important elements or a single image per page, then do it. Elements of surprise also make the cut, and users usually pay attention to this. This is visual scarcity.

Content-wise, you may also use this principle. Have you seen websites that tell visitors “only 2 left?” The unexpectedness of the copy also drives the people to pay closer attention to what is being said.

Visitor anchoring

Improving the attention people gave your website is also about visitor anchoring. If you help people navigate throughout the website as easily as possible, they will reward you with the right actions.

One action per screen

If possible, include only one action per screen. Singularity works best also when you know exactly what you want your users to do. Also, if there are too many choices, the experience can be both overwhelming and paralyzing.

Help the users narrow down the options. Filters work best for this purpose, assisting the visitors to find the most suitable product, service or, yes, information.

They will convert when they are 100% ready.

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