Persuasive Web Design

Convince people to stay on your site, believe it, and take desirable actions

Users judge websites in a fraction of a second and their decision-making is largely controlled by unconscious thought, not logic. Much of what influences users to take desirable actions is not as clear-cut as we would like to think.

Focusing on branding, design, and usability is only the starting point. Understanding the psychology behind motivation and action and how to incorporate that into web experiences and your design process can take your site to the next level.


Topics Covered

  • – Trust: Good news and bad news
  • – 11 tips for boosting credibility via text presentation, complexity, ceding control to users and pacing requests
  • – How to measure and test for credibility and avoid fruitless surveys

Human behavior

  • – Kahneman’s System 1 and 2
  • – Cognitive ease and cognitive strain

Human automaticity

  • – Cognitive biases: Priming, anchoring, framing
  • – Judgmental heuristics
  • – How pre-attentive processing informs users’ stay or go decisions

Influencing principles

  •  – Reciprocity
  • – Commitment and consistency
  • – Social proof
  • – Liking
  • – Authority
  • – Scarcity

Persuading people to visit your site

  • – SEO
  • – Searching behavior
  • – Email
  • – Brand awareness

Persuading people to stay on your site

  • – Avoid scaring people away with auto-play
  • – Tune visual appearance and eliminate surprises
  • – Use contextual imagery to help people imagine how a product works or can benefit them
  • – Provide and position expected content where people expect to find it (logo, prices, taglines, availability, etc.)
  • – Offer deeper content and features like reviews, advice, quoting, and tracking
  • – Expand and expose content to encourage browsing
  • – Allay fears and predict the questions that people need to get answered (compatibility, cost, savings, fees, appropriateness, etc.)
  • – Ease decision-making by incorporating Decision Architecture techniques
  • – Use gentle nudges to encourage conversion
  • – Remove obstacles to facilitate conversions
  • – Use associative imagery to accurately reflect what you do/offer/sell
  • – Understand how image subject-matter can impact users’ interpretation of need (specific to philanthropic sites)
  • – Rethinking design method and philosophy to better match the way real users behave



The course is mainly in lecture format with a couple of group exercises to reinforce the learned principles and guidelines.


The course also includes:

  • – Findings from our own usability studies, including eyetracking
  • – Videos from usability testing of people’s behavior in response to a design
  • – Screenshots of designs that work and don’t work, and why
  • – Opportunities to ask questions and get answers