3 UX Strategies That Incite Desired User Behaviors

Here are three sim­ple psy­chol­o­gy-based UX strate­gies you can employ that take advan­tage of psy­cho­log­i­cal levers.

Larry Marine By Larry Marine from Intuitive Design. Join the discussion » 0 comments

Most web­sites are lit­tle more than dig­i­tal brochures that rely on users will­ing­ness to read end­less tomes of text, assim­i­late all the infor­ma­tion, and then to deter­mine what con­tent applies to them. They expect users to do most of the work and are sur­prised when their con­ver­sion rates fail. While web­sites are con­tent with a measly 2 per­cent con­ver­sion rate, any suc­cess­ful sales­per­son would have an anx­i­ety attack over such low num­bers. If you con­sid­er that most web­site vis­i­tors are warm leads (why else would they be on your site), any decent sales­per­son is con­fi­dent that they can close half of those moti­vat­ed buy­ers.

If we assume that just half of your vis­i­tors are tru­ly moti­vat­ed to buy your prod­uct, there’s no log­i­cal rea­son why you should­n’t be able to close half of those warm leads. That means your con­ver­sion rate should be 25 per­cent, not 2 per­cent. So why can’t you close like a sales­per­son? Because you don’t take advan­tage of the psy­cho­log­i­cal levers like a sales­per­son can. In the car sales busi­ness, it’s com­mon prac­tice to gain the con­fi­dence of a reluc­tant buy­er by touch­ing them on the arm or shoul­der. This sim­ple touch method psy­cho­log­i­cal­ly dis­arms an oth­er­wise hes­i­tant or defen­sive cus­tomer. While you can’t reach out and touch a web­site vis­i­tor, here are a few sim­ple psy­chol­o­gy-based UX strate­gies you can employ that have sim­i­lar dis­arm­ing and engag­ing effects.

1. Affordances Instead Of Instructions

Users don’t read instruc­tions! Any design should be intu­itive­ly obvi­ous to the intend­ed users. Instruc­tions are a prob­lem, not a solu­tion. If your site relies on instruc­tions, then there’s some­thing wrong with the design. The more your design relies on users read­ing and fol­low­ing instruc­tions, the more like­ly your site will suf­fer. How many times have you grabbed a door han­dle and instinc­tive­ly pulled on it only to have the door rat­tle but not open, then you see the lit­tle sign above the han­dle telling you to push? Think about it, some­thing as sim­ple as a door shouldn’t require instruc­tions. Putting a flat pan­el on the door instead of a han­dle invites and affords the desired action. You can only push on a flat pan­el. Your web­site needs to have the right con­trols and avoid any and all instruc­tions. Users are more like­ly to click on some­thing if it is intu­itive­ly obvi­ous what to do and what the expect­ed result will be. It’s even more suc­cess­ful of that expect­ed result is relat­ed to the users’ intend­ed objec­tive.

2. Outcomes, Not Features

Users want to solve prob­lems, not use a web­site. Rather than pro­vide a host of fea­tures that users must fig­ure out how to use, iden­ti­fy their key rea­sons for com­ing to your site and pro­vide but­tons or links for each of those key desired out­comes. This is referred to as “res­onat­ing with the users’ point of pain.” For instance, The Kel­ley Blue Book web­site offers but­tons that each lead the down a spe­cif­ic path and are labeled with each desired end result – How much is my car worth, what should I pay for a new car, etc. Each sep­a­rate path still sues the same car selec­tion fea­ture, but each in a dif­fer­ent way. Rather than expect­ing users to fig­ure out how to mod­i­fy that one fea­ture for each out­come, the site offers sep­a­rate paths, each using that one fea­ture opti­mized for that spe­cif­ic desired out­come.

3. Engagement Without Commitment

One of the most suc­cess­ful levers is to cre­ate emo­tion­al invest­ment in the prod­uct. Most web­sites have sev­er­al oppor­tu­ni­ties to do this, but instead rely on user com­mit­ment. For instance, requir­ing users to sub­mit an email in order to down­load a white paper fails more than it suc­ceeds, espe­cial­ly if you don’t pro­vide an abstract of the con­tent. Requir­ing users to com­mit clicks with­out giv­ing them an expec­ta­tion of what to expect dra­mat­i­cal­ly reduces the click-through rate. Giv­ing users a sense of what val­ue they will get for their click only slight­ly improves the suc­cess rate, but those suc­cess rates decrease with each click. Cre­at­ing emo­tion­al invest­ment is a well-known approach to engag­ing the user and tripling the click-through rates. For instance, allow­ing users to cre­ate some­thing of intrin­sic val­ue endears them to the site. On the ProFlow­ers site, we found that once the cus­tomer writes the gift card, they are eager to com­plete the trans­ac­tion. When we moved the gift card step to occur right after the bou­quet selec­tion, the con­ver­sion fun­nel spiked. ProFlow­ers has been a top con­vert­ing site since its launch in 1998 with con­ver­sion rates at 25 per­cent.

Larry Marine

Written by Larry Marine

Director, UX Design, Intuitive Design

Larry Marine earned his degree in User Experience/User Centered Design from the father of UX, Dr. Don Norman. A UX Consultant for 25 years, Larry has created some of the most successful designs on the web, including Proflowers, FedEx Print, and others. His success comes from looking at web interactions very differently, from the user's perspective. His talks, though infrequent, are often some of the most well-attended and reviewed at various conferences. His depth and breadth of experience and knowledge puts him in that rare breed often referred to as a true UX expert.

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