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Persuasion Architecture and the Art of Agreement for Website Success


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#1 cre8pc

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Posted 23 June 2006 - 01:21 PM

The Eisenberg's new book, "Waiting for Your Cat to Bark?", follows me around the house. It started in the office, but since I'm writing a review of the book, I figured I could read it by the pool. It's such a great book that it follows me where ever I go now. It may go to a few baseball games...

Every page of their new book has food for thought, written in easy to understand language. I'm not a marketer, but I do find online buyer behavior fascinating. The same thing with search behavior. What really gets me going is what happens after all the effort is put into getting someone to a website, and the action or inaction that occurs next.

Did they leave the site? Why?

Did they browse the site? Why?

Did they buy something while there? Why?

You likely wonder the same kinds of things.

But, did you ever play around with the questions? Like,

Why didn't they leave the site? What did I do correctly? Was it something I did, or something I said, or something I sell or something else that made them love something?

If you know what that great thing is, you want to keep doing it.

Here's another one. You track your traffic. You may know how many stayed around long enough to do something you wanted them to do. However, how many of them were *satisfied*? We don't often think about their emotional or mental well being.

What struck me most, as I'm reading, is the reminder that people come to our web sites because they have volunteered to do so. Even if you did something to drive them there, they still came of their own free will. They have agreed to see what you do. Now what?

Do you have a site that's relevant?

Does it deliver what the landing page in the search engine said it would?

Can they relate to you, your company, your experience, your offer?

The book points out that just because they agreed to come, doesn't mean they agreed to buy anything. Or do anything, for that matter.

I think this is an amazing way of thinking about sites. SEO/M's are so focused on links, rank and indexing. Do they care about the site visitor satisfaction angle? Does a site owner have a self rightous view of their site, leaving out the possibility that they are always one click away from a big fat zero?

The book really delves into this hidden underbelly of web site marketing. I love it. It's challenging. It's going way beyond conversions and asking, why didn't they come back?

Do you think like that?

Buy Waiting For Your Cat to Bark (No, this is not an affiliate link.)

#2 DCrx

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Posted 24 June 2006 - 06:33 AM

I've been reading A Day in the Life of a Persuasion Architect. There is a close relationship to much of the research I've seen elsewhere. Most websites are designed around the "quick path."

It's fairly easy to sell online to folks who know exactly what they want. They're eventually able to find what they're looking for and seem willing to stumble over a road block or two to complete the deal. Word is these visitors convert well.
-- Are You Ignoring Eager Customers?


These "quick path" websites aren't designed for shopping, they are built around the transaction at the end. And that's where usability comes in, which gets the site out of the user's way. Persuasion is a different animal. Motivation is different from persuasion. These are both within the power of content design to provide.

I've rarely seen online content take up the task and Forrester Research seems to be on my side. (Small consolation).

Edited by DCrx, 24 June 2006 - 06:34 AM.


#3 cre8pc

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Posted 26 June 2006 - 10:51 AM

And, judging from the lack of interest in the topic, I'd say there's a LONG way to go in getting the message out.

I see it constantly in my work, and the sites in the Website Hospital here. There's a noticable disconnect between the pages and the visitor experience.

Findability, persuasion architecture, momentum, etc. are all fascinating to explore, and then find ways to translate what needs to be done into web site design.

The Eisenbergs are of the few out there writing about this stuff, and they put it in easy to understand language, with examples.

We need more education and studies showing how to implement tactics that persuade and excite people to take action. I still can't get over my eureka moment when the Eisenberg's trained my brain to get the fact that our Internet visitors have agreed to visit our web sites, and its what we do once they get there that's so critical. In some cases, that agreement occurred at the search engine stage, but there are other ways too.

The relationship between marketing and followup is where sites tend to break down.

#4 bragadocchio

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Posted 26 June 2006 - 11:04 AM

And, judging from the lack of interest in the topic, I'd say there's a LONG way to go in getting the message out.


I'm not sure that there's a lack of interest in the topic. It's just hard to post in response to a topic that introduces a book, and talks about some of the issues raised in the book itself.

Great example from one of the conference sessions that I saw Bryan speak at.

A site that sold DVDs had a search box on it at the top of the page - easy to see, and easy to use. It was the fifth most visited page on the site, which was a fairly large one. The search box was being used maybe 5 - 10 times a day, in spite of thousands of people seeing the page everyday.

The site sold DVDs of all types, but next to the search box was a graphic that let people know that they site sold DVDs for children. The graphic was changed, to let people know that they sold a wide variety of DVDs, and searches from the search box changed to thousands of searches daily.

One tiny tweak made a huge difference.

Optimizing a page for conversions can involve looking at every aspect of a site, and asking whether or not each element, and it's placement, are helping and hurting. It can be worth doing though - very much so.

#5 bwelford

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Posted 26 June 2006 - 11:05 AM

I think it's part of the general disconnect between what I see and what you see. If you're taking it easy, you assume that you see what everyone else sees. That links in with assuming that you hear what I said. Sometimes it doesn't matter very much. Sometimes the other will say, "Wait a minute, I don't get what you're talking about." I would guess that the percentage of times that someone gets precisely what you're communicating is very low, say 1%. Perhaps another 9% get enough that they know what you're talking about.

Now if you're chatting with your mates at the pub, then it doesn't matter. Indeed most of the best discussion may arise when you miscommunicate.

However if we're talking businesses and we're working hard to get the best bang for the buck, then this difference between what I'm beaming out and what you perceive is critical.

Eventually it gets to the whole subject of product-driven versus customer-centric companies. Hello, Google, ... is anyone listening?

#6 cre8pc

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Posted 26 June 2006 - 11:20 AM

Yeah, the book is hard to write about because every single page is loaded with information. For a small book, it's a gem.

Another thing they mentioned that stood out was how we often ask, "What did they buy?" and then base design changes and tweaks based on this data. However, asking "Why didn't they buy?" adds more depth and is more of a challenge. The DVD example is one that shows that.

There are several chapters devoted to personas, and how they create and implement them. They have their own system.

Another good guideline is this one, from their book. And that is, "Think of a click as the question and the destination as the answer. This fits in well with Jared Spool's "scent of information".

#7 dgeary9

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Posted 26 June 2006 - 12:05 PM

<laughing>The Eisenberg questions are squarely at the center of what most experienced web analytics pros concentrate on, it's hard to remember not everyone thinks this way!!

I can't count how many folks I have talked to, ask how their website is doing, and all they can tell me is how many people arrive and how many people buy. It's harder (but much, much more fun) to quantify - were they happy, frustrated, interested? Did their interest increase or decrease as they browsed? Which visitors got more frustrated, which ones got more interested?

#8 cre8pc

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Posted 26 June 2006 - 12:36 PM

Interested is not such a small thing either.

I'm testing a site today that is targeted to teens and their parents/teachers. They are supposedly well known in some target markets, but I had never heard of them. So, since my teen is at home (summer break and jobless), I asked if she'd heard of it.

No. (In the high pitched way they answer, as if to say, "Why are you asking me a dumb question mom?)

So, I have her glance at it, to see if there is any reaction, such as interest.

She got mad at me.

Never mention website, kids, parents and teachers in the same sentence to a teenager.

Could possibly explain why the owners say that after age 15, interest drops. :)

Back to the question, then. Why are they not coming?

#9 dgeary9

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Posted 26 June 2006 - 02:49 PM

ROFL Kim - I don't think teens were ever meant to be a focus group, especially conducted by mom :)...

I think the first question is, why does your client assume they are well known? And why is 15 the magic age of dropping interest? (Now that's a fascinating tidbit of information...)

#10 DCrx

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Posted 26 June 2006 - 06:21 PM

Back to the question, then. Why are they not coming?


Without some information, it's more an exercise than fruitful answer. It is possible you already put your finger on the answer....

Never mention website, kids, parents and teachers in the same sentence to a teenager.


Targeting adults automatically makes the site lose its appeal for teens. Myspace has been "found out," so migration is to next-new-things like Bebo.

It is going to take an entirely different kind of site to straddle segments.

#11 dpam

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Posted 26 June 2006 - 07:16 PM

Hi everyone. Great to see this thread, as like you I'm totally captivated by the book. I wrote a full review a week or so ago (http://blogs.commerc..._to_bark_r.html) and am posting thoughts chapter by chapter now. But look forward to adding to this thread as well.

In terms of the first question in this thread, about the realization that visitors are volunteers, I made the point in my post yesterday that a great way to think about your site is as if you're Bill Murray in Groundhog's Day and trying to make it through the night with Andie MacDowell - every day they come and you get to try and get them one step closer to completion.

Using the persuasive techniques in the book certainly can shorten the process, but it also requires great analytics and the ability to watch and learn from users behaviour. Most sites have at least a fair amount of traffic, yet let these prospects fail in the same ways day after day after day.

In my comments on Chapter 4 I proposed a new rule for dealing with site design decisions - 'what would the customer do?' Historically site design (and content) decisions have been made to satisfy the marketer's view of how they should present themselves. Recently some people have decided to make decisions to please the Algo's above all else. I think WFYCTB challenges us to make these decisions as if we're trying to please only the visitor - which we should be!

As Kim mentioned, the book has too many important concepts and provokes too many thoughts for one post, but I look forward to discussing them here.

#12 Ruud

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Posted 26 June 2006 - 07:18 PM

And, judging from the lack of interest in the topic, I'd say there's a LONG way to go in getting the message out.


I think it is not a lack of interest. It's a lack of knowledge how to do this whole "thing". HTML, CSS, PHP, SEO, even marketing is more concrete, seems more accessible. But which program do I download to do this "thing"? Is it a "make it up as you go along" type of thing? If so, how is that different from "just" me seeing the website just as I would experience it?

Example:

However, how many of them were *satisfied*? We don't often think about their emotional or mental well being.


So how do we do that? And with "we" I mean; us little guys. Even if we had the money to have a focus group study, we know those are 10% truth, 90% well indented lies. People say one thing and then the eyelabs show they do another. People might not want to offend and prefer to say "I hope it was as good for you as it was for me" when in fact they're having a mental puke moment.

Thinking out loud ... I could do a simple 1 question, scale of 5 answer quiz. Present it to every 5th visitor or so. Immediate thought: Ruud, you virtually always click on the "No thanks - continue browsing" link... And if I still were to got with the idea, how best to present it? An interstellar or a popup?

I see some sites with this little [+] sign in the corner. They collect feedback all the time. Rate this site.

What am I measuring then? Aren't the people who take time to answer my questions more likely to be the ones who want to help out, are eager to please? Does that skew my research (too much)?

If my sites sells items I could (e)mail people. Doing research under the buyers leave out all non-buyers, the bouncers...

On a content site I can have a "rate this article" but what is it they rate? Primarily the content. And if I would ask people "Did you feel satisfied by this site" after they just read one of the saddest stories around -- what would they really be answering to?

So right now most of us are exposed to the message of what it is, how that is so, how it could be done -- but the steps in between to go from your me-centric site to an us-centric site ... that remains somewhat of a mystery.

#13 cre8pc

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Posted 26 June 2006 - 07:31 PM

Craig,

Thank you for joining in this discussion. Your blog coverage of the book is exceptional, to say the least. It's further validation at how amazing the book is. I was blown away with Call to Action, but this new book has more packed into it, and yet is written in a language that I think more people will understand, so they can apply the practices and understand the logic.

Analogies like the Bill Murray one help a lot too!

I have much to present to the client, whose site I'm working on. I had more fun watching my teenager use it, in a very informal user test. I wanted her first impressions, especially since she's very comfortable with the 'Net and kid oriented sites. The feedback from kids is precious. Easy to understand terms like "boring" and "dumb" are not what adults often say :) I assigned her a task and watched her try to do it. She understood what certain terms meant, that I think some adult users might not understand.

The site has many "Bill Murray's" to focus on. I see this often, where a company has large demographics that can be related, but have clearly different needs for the site. Like employement sites (for seekers and recruiters), or education (students, parents, teachers), and even ecommerce, (young persons merchandise but parents have the credit card).

#14 cre8pc

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Posted 26 June 2006 - 07:51 PM

I think it is not a lack of interest. It's a lack of knowledge how to do this whole "thing".



Indeed! And I knew that. To provoke an emotional reaction, I pushed a button with my remark (which if anyone knows me, seems a bit out of character).

This is related to the discussion of persuasion. The comment I made got you and Bill charged up. However, it could end right here unless there's momentum. There has to be answers to the questions you've asked, or at minimum, the hope that some will come.

The Eisenberg's have made this whole thing fascinating and in the book, there are examples of how they solved such problems. I don't expect everyone can hire out for user persona development though. But, if we can introduce some new thinking, we are helping web follks to think outside their box...to design to satisfy.

Here's one idea, from the book:

The secret to creating personas is creating "real" people with whom everyone involved with managing your persuasive system can emphasize. Empathy is the ultimate value of a persona, from which all else flows.



Granted, persona creation is a detailed operation. But, imagine how much better it would be if everyone on the team truly emphasized with the people they are building a site for? If they understand what those people want and need, why they come and leave sites, what satisfies them beyond immediate gratification?
We get few chances sometimes. (Think of the movie, "What Women Want" and Mel Gibson trying on lipstick, waxing his legs and wearing pantyhose, to understand his target market.)

There are different types of people and characteristics. I use the "Methodical" person the most in my work. They are detail oriented, want to know how things work before they use it, they want proof of credibility, they're price conscious, read product specs, etc.

By studying behavior and habits, design choices can be applied that make logical sense, rather than shooting darts at the wall.

#15 Ron Carnell

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Posted 26 June 2006 - 08:08 PM

I'm afraid I'm with Ruud on this one.

Anyone else here gone through a divorce? Been completely surprised when an important relationship failed? Had their teen answer a question in a high pitched way, as if to say, "Why are you asking me a dumb question, Mom?" :)

Satisfying people isn't such an easy thing, I think. Of course, that certainly doesn't mean we shouldn't try, and I will always welcome anything that helps. I just don't hold out a lot of hope for major success. At some point, whether it's a visitor to my web sites or a potential wife, it's more productive to find someone who likes me as me than to try to change to what I "think" they want. I still want to change the things that make me a better person (or result in a better web site), but I need to make those changes for ME, not for someone else. Shoot, even then, most of the time I can quite articulate what I want; trying to pin down what everyone else wants from me just too exhausting to contemplate. :)

#16 cre8pc

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Posted 26 June 2006 - 08:12 PM

Ah. As in, don't get married thinking you can change the person :)

The sub-title of the book is "Persuading customers when they ignore marketing".

I feel a pre-nup analogy coming on....heh

#17 Ruud

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Posted 26 June 2006 - 09:28 PM

This is related to the discussion of persuasion. The comment I made got you and Bill charged up. However, it could end right here unless there's momentum. There has to be answers to the questions you've asked, or at minimum, the hope that some will come.


Yes. Link bait. Post bait. Bait. "Ten 10 minutes steps to financial freedom", "Learn PHP in 21 days", "Instant web site creator" - those kind of promises.

So then you need to deliver. Or in case of some of the titles mentioned above, create the illusion of delivery.

The marketing angle I get. The sales angle I get. The wed design thing... that's something else.

I agree that creating one or more persona, even rudimentary ones, and walking through your site "as if" is a very, very helpful tool. A writer can connect with the idea that these persona will start to act by themselves and will limit what they can and cannot do.

So, here's Hank. Hank is 42 and lives with his mother. He is not so popular but halfway fools himself into thinking he is. He ignores negative remarks. Hank spends a lot of time on the Internet and is an expert among Internet newbies.

When Hank wants to learn how to get more numbers on his visitor counter on his free web host page (he has a real domain name that comes free with an iframe...) he lands at Cre8asite Forums.

Used to full, commercially loaded pages (Hank is very familiar with networks such as MSN's) he finds the page very empty, non-tempting, not engaging. Used to "text bites" scattered around a page, decorated with photos, his normal scanning pattern fails. He clicks on the first link in his main view, scans the community-members centered intro and double-back clicks to Google...

Hank is not happy, not impressed.

So? I could also make Persistant Edna who digs deeper and finds true gold. Or Slow Juan upon whom it dawns. Or ....

So, doing this and much, much more Coca Cola created New Coke. The "down the drain" product.

What is important, or more important, is true users. How do we get to that data? And what do I do with it? What does it all mean?

I install a free heatmap tool on my page (great tip: PageHeat "eye tracking" for the poor). I wait two weeks and look. Now what? Look at the demo at that site: the heat follows the page design... Erm... OK, so I am trying to learn about my design by tracking what people do/see ... but what they see and do is largly my design.

Example: I see all the heat is on my searchbox. Wow! Cool! I put an ad there. Two weeks later, no results; the heatmap shows that now people are looking elsewhere the most. Where? At my searchbox.

... dang ...

I learn from reading online research that people want to know where they are in a registration process. I chop up my one page 20 fields form into 4 x 5. Add a nice clear indication: 1/4. Will abandonment go up or down? Hank is happy with the nice progress indicator graphic and buys but Persistant Edna is bugged because she rather chomped through those 20 fields all at once. Hmmm....

So poor folks, the one-owner ecommerce sites, have just two solutions to get to this stuff.

One; read online research and hope it somehow applies to you.

Two; always think of things you can change, improve or try and run A/B tests for the rest of your life.

If human visitors would have a DOCTYPE it would be one that triggers quirks mode :)

#18 dpam

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Posted 26 June 2006 - 10:23 PM

I think it is not a lack of interest. It's a lack of knowledge how to do this whole "thing". HTML, CSS, PHP, SEO, even marketing is more concrete, seems more accessible. But which program do I download to do this "thing"? Is it a "make it up as you go along" type of thing? If so, how is that different from "just" me seeing the website just as I would experience it?


Rudd: Great question. Several of them actually. Let's me try to answer them, in reverse.

How is that different from "just" me seeing the website just as I would experience it?


It's different because the exercise is to find out/guess/ask who are the people who are visiting the site and then flesh out their backgrounds, desires, psychological makeup, etc. Simply the premise that there are four behaviour modes (methodical, spontaneous, humanistic, and competitive) adds all types of clarity towards the type and sequence of information a site needs to provide.

Is it a "make it up as you go along" type of thing?


No, and that's the gift the Eisenberg's have given. They've 'made it up' and turned it into a process and at least large documented it in a $20 book. Said another way, it's a process - you follow it. It's actually very specific and detailed.

HTML, CSS, PHP, SEO, even marketing is more concrete


I'm with you on the first four anyway! I think the way to -start- employing or deploying the ideas of Persuasion is to simply take the idea (from Chapter 6, which I just blogged tonight) that the goal of the site is not to sell, but to help them buy. Think about what specific thought might be in the mind of a visitor and then look at a page and decide if anything on that page specifically addresses that desire, and then determine if it's clear and prominent enough.

When talking to ecommerce type sites about this, I often use this example - someone coming to buy a gift vs someone who is a subject-matter-expert who is coming to purchase for themselves. Imagine the difference in those two heads when they hit your home page (or any page). The most appropriate thing for one is very different than the most appropriate for the other. Yet most pages have these two plus several other unique flavors arriving. They all need different things - yet today in most cases NONE of them are getting exactly what they need. The process of Persuasion aims to correct that.

As the book says (at the end) it ain't easy. I'm often reminded of what Steve Martin said when hosting the Academy Awards, after Haley Berry and some model-looking-guy left the stage. He said "I'd do anything to look like that - except diet and exercise". Sometimes the path is clear yet somehow it's still hard to muster the will or stamina. PA is a lot harder than the alternative. But the alternative is (generally) crappy sites. Over time I bet the concepts if not the literal process of PA becomes commonplace.

Hope that makes it a little clearer.

#19 Ruud

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Posted 26 June 2006 - 11:22 PM

That's a really helpful post, Craig. Thanks for taking that time. It's not yet at the "aha!" point but it nudges something in me... This is going to be one of those 2 steps forward, 1 step back learning processes...

the goal of the site is not to sell, but to help them buy.


See, that clicks something. I'm a bit afraid though that what it mostly dislodges is marketing ideas :)

They all need different things - yet today in most cases NONE of them are getting exactly what they need. The process of Persuasion aims to correct that.


OK, I'm actually 2 steps back now :) And yes, feel free at any time to tell me to just read the book ;)

First, a site can't be everything to everyone. It's why so many major brands have several sites for several products and audiences, no?

At best the site can be unobtrusive so the marketing can take its course and, using a combination of landing page and conversions paths, do its work for distinctly different audiences.

Second, isn't persuasion already an inherent attribute of marketing?

Finally (this would be point 3 or step back #3 .. if I continue at this speed I'll be 14 years old by the end of this post...), how exactly does this apply to a web site? Maybe Kim's post has put me on the wrong track and we're not even really talking about sites here...

One of two, even both, might work; a walk through of a site as I attempted in my previous post -- or an example of what is really good persuasion and how it is different from "regular" marketing.

ps: I'm ordering this book ... you persuaded me :)

Edited by Ruud, 26 June 2006 - 11:23 PM.


#20 bragadocchio

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Posted 26 June 2006 - 11:37 PM

I think the way to -start- employing or deploying the ideas of Persuasion is to simply take the idea (from Chapter 6, which I just blogged tonight) that the goal of the site is not to sell, but to help them buy.



That's something I came away with from a class on equity law in a class I took with one of Delaware's vice chancellors. A lawyer's job isn't to present an argument, and the "adversarial" legal system that we might think exists isn't really an adversial system. It isn't the person with the best argument that wins a legal case - but rather the one that is more persuasive. How can you be more persuasive?

By making it easy for your listener to be responsive to what you are saying or writing. In a legal situation, that may mean to present the problem, and provide an informed solution. Make it easy for the judge to respond positively to what you are asking for.

When you sell a product or a service, how does it help the person visiting your site? What benefits does it provide them? How much should they trust you? How do you eliminate concerns about shipping, security, privacy, returning products that are the wrong ones, other ways to solve the problem they have or the need they might want fulfilled, or what others might say about the service or product? What information do you provide them to make the decision to do business with you an easy decision? How do you present that information?

#21 Black_Knight

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Posted 27 June 2006 - 01:38 AM

First, a site can't be everything to everyone. It's why so many major brands have several sites for several products and audiences, no?

At best the site can be unobtrusive so the marketing can take its course and, using a combination of landing page and conversions paths, do its work for distinctly different audiences.

There's 2 immediate points I think may clarify things here Ruud. I'm going to reverse the order in which you prompted them though.

So, lets start with that the problem with marketing is that it tries to lead people. Marketing is not unobtrusive. Marketing that was unobtrusive would be deemed ineffective marketing. But with so many diverse types of customers, the marketing that works for one may put off three others. One might even feel that one could actually get more sales by not actively marketing at all once they are on the site.

This brings us to the other point, and a critical one. You say "a site can't be everything to everyone" - are you sure? What is the size limit on a site? If you had the time and manpower, would it not be theoretically possible to have a site that had at least one page for every known personality type and mood?

So, I say that the problem is not that a site can't be everything to everyone. The problem is that too many marketers try to send a single message to everyone in one go.

Instead, think of how your website can act like a smart salesman and assess the prospective customer, find out who they are, what they want, and make personalised offers. There's an article I wrote for Peter Da Vanzo some while back which addresses this exact topic and suggests some ways to start segregating visitors into personality types: "Landing Paths - Reinventing the Landing Page"



Afterthought afterthoughtAs an extra 'tip' you may get some value from, most marketers look at what they didn't say as a key to a failure to persuade. However, all to often it is actually a problem of saying too much - getting in the way. If I walked into a high street store with a specific question such as "will this [product] be suitable for [specific purpose]" I expect a straight answer. Even an answer of "Hmm, I'm not certain, but I think so" is not as bad as if the salesman in the store proceeded to reel off a huge list of things the product could do that were totally unrelated to my enquiry.



So the tip here is to get the question, the need, the purpose. Then answer that specific question/need/purpose enquiry to your best ability with the same focus as the customer has :)


#22 Ruud

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Posted 27 June 2006 - 02:36 AM

Appreciated, Ammon.

I think at this point it is very well possible we're talking about this from different angles. I picked up on this from Kim's angle on applying this to web sites; how they are (design, usability) and what they deliver (this perception, I believe, is for a large part marketing, promotion persuasion).

You say "a site can't be everything to everyone" - are you sure? What is the size limit on a site? If you had the time and manpower, would it not be theoretically possible to have a site that had at least one page for every known personality type and mood?


Yes -- if I were to adopt various styles of the site: different colors, layouts, possibly even sound effects.

The site being the medium and marketing delivering the message, I only see so many ways the medium can be adapted to various people and moods while on the other hand the marketing can be adapted ad infinitum.

With television or a magazine I might be limited only by the context of the delivery mechanism. Within the TV screen I can do what I want even though I cannot change the colors of your television set. Within the magazine I can make this beautiful, moody autumn ad.

In both cases the "user" will still be fully aware that they are either watching television or browsing the magazine they picked up.

A web site's context comes from a certain look and feel which is maintained throughout the site. To radically break this pattern (layout/template) to accommodate for various suspected persona breaks the medium itself; and if the medium is broke -- how can you effectively deliver the message?

If within this forum the look & feel of the site would radically change between each sub-forum -- how would you be aware you're still on the same site? Where would your trust to pay us money come from?

Hence my idea that the site itself should be a carrier for the marketing first. You can then decide to complement the marketing with the design, if you have a very specific market in mind, or you can have the site be unobtrusive, take a step back, be more neutral or all encompassing.

The problem is that too many marketers try to send a single message to everyone in one go.


Exactly. So you send a different message (marketing) to each, not a different look & feel.

And this is where Kim's unanswered questions come in. If you don't send a single message to everyone -- why look for a single reason they left? Visitor A might have been in a bad mood, visitor B didn't like the colors, visitor C was just too confused.

Shopping cart abandonment you can attack with usability up to a point. But why 50 out of 100 customers didn't like your site ... it all depends.

#23 DCrx

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Posted 27 June 2006 - 06:09 AM

Yes -- if I were to adopt various styles of the site: different colors, layouts, possibly even sound effects.



Let's look at this differently. We have already (somewhat) conditioned the user to choose different layouts, or high-bandwidth (Flash) versus low-bandwidth. On this forum, I can select different "skins." The question becomes can we offer the user useful site versions, rather than developer-centric, industry-centric versions.

Let's say you're selling a wide-ranging line of MP3 players. The typical way to organize the line are along product features, product lines, and price points; the industry perception of the implementation model. This assumes a user highly knowledgeable about the product line. However, if we've done our marketing homework, we know several segments visit the site. Each has different objectives for using the product.

So here are are new categories: The Commuter, Fitness Freak, Traveler, Audiophile, File Hoarder.

On the Fitness Freak section users find...
Fitness freak
Do you go to the gym three or more times per week?
Do you engage in active outdoors sports?
Can you define the term protein window?
Do you buy a new pair of running shoes every two months?

And this text simply confirms to the user they have selected the right page. For each segment, certain features matter more for the user's objectives. There is no more fundamental evidence of "Know thy customer" than this. This is the part of desirability design called identity architecture.

Next can we tell, through user interaction, how much detail and content the user is expecting to see? Turns out there is a whole interaction design technique called Progressive Disclosure. When a user clicks a thumbnail in a catalog, they want more information -- and they don't often get it. And you know from what section, and at which stage the user leaves or stays, orders or doesn't.

The Downside: We have to develop a much more sophisticated understanding of the user, the customer, and what web design can deliver.

Persuasion architecture is captology. What I've outlined here is Cooper's Goal Centered Design moved to the web. The techniques are nothing new, just unpracticed. Every database-driven commerce site should have A/B splitrun testing built in -- if it ever wants to change into a customer driven ecommerce site. If I offer a "skin" I can persuade myself I am really offering some choice. Thinking skin-deep, I don't have to think about the customer on any level than the most abstract and certainly don't have to do research. All I have to do is "flash" the customer with a high-bandwidth version and they'll buy more. That's what the designers of many sites seem to be saying to themselves. Call it self persuasion.

Edited by DCrx, 27 June 2006 - 06:55 AM.


#24 busybeingborn

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Posted 27 June 2006 - 09:12 AM

First let me say that the Eisenbergs are very smart. They have been doing what they do longer than most and nobody has really done more to bring conversion and optimization to the fore in the minds of marketers. I very much enjoyed their first book and respect them a great deal. That said, I found this book very academic and the concepts and processes expressed therein very difficult for most to implement.

My personal view is that detailed personas area a waste of time. I think much more value is found spending the upfront time with understanding goal stories and segmentation than with persona creation. Personas are mostly assumptive and the time and effort spent on creation is, in my opinion, is better spent elsewhere. What I do think is important is audience segmentation. Considerations like geo, new vs. repeat visitor, referrer, AdGroup, are much eaasier to define, implement and measure.

I am also of the belief that it is almost impossible for a business to persuade an online user into action. Online persuasion comes from peers and communities, not business. If you are not relevant to users goals you've lost them. End of story. Segmenting your audience you can create more relevant experiences (and be WAY ahead of almost all your competitors). Wrap segmentation up with testing messages and designs (A/B and MVT) and this will be enough for 99.9% of businesses to have great online marketing success. I don't think it has to be that complex. Am I off my rocker?

#25 A.N.Onym

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Posted 27 June 2006 - 09:17 AM

You know what, I guess you are right that the most detailed research isn't that beneficial.

All you need is to make it clear to your visitor that your product or service is what they are looking for.

Everything everyone does is to achieve this goal. Personas are artificial, so it doesn't matter much how detailed they are (too little detail won't help, though).

What matters is real customers - the reasons they visit the site, why the buy the product, what makes them refer you to their friends, etc. Personas is customer research for the poor, IMHO. Why conjure up personas if you have real people to study?

Of course, you can't suit the site for every 123526 visitor you have. Instead, you spot major trends in your visitors and stick to them. Sure, these trends can be called personas, but they are based on real customers, not on web consultants knowledge.

#26 cre8pc

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Posted 27 June 2006 - 09:42 AM

I absolutely believe in the value of user personas, especially in software development. Programmers know what works for them, and how they want an application to perform functionally. It is not part of their training to consider how to get to anyone to use it, or persuade anyone to.

Web site owners, especially very small operations, start out in the brochure stage. Their website looks and performs like one. It presents information, but is not designed to persuade. What can we do to help them take the next step?

We're still studying how people react to web sites. We're still studying who can and can't use them. I work on sites all the time that folks with screen readers can't navigate. This is so sad. They can't NAVIGATE the site. They're prevented from moving from page to page. We don't need user personas to be fair and non-discriminatory.

I think any information that expands our awareness and gets us to think about how a site is used, and who uses it, is helpful to those who want to make a success of things.

Look at all the new "search engines" and new "directories" and new "blogs" that are launched on a constant basis. There are already sites that dominate in these areas. Why keep redoing the same thing, over and over? What compells these people? They each believe they have the next new thing, but they fail because they did not persuade us they do. They offered no proof.

Amazon has been selling online for years. They invented things like wish lists and "those who bought this bought that". They understood their end users and added more stores and more products because they found that people wanted or needed things and Amazon wanted to provide a way to get them.

They studied behavior. They know there are people like me who don't have time for shopping around and like the ease of use in buying from one place. How did they learn about my habits? How do they know what I want? They didn't come to my house and interview me. They used data, created personas, tested people, sent surveys. They're so good at figuring things out, everybody else copies them.

Sure, we are never going to please everybody. However, the successful companies are the ones who understand the value in putting forth the effort to satisfy their visitors.

#27 dpam

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Posted 27 June 2006 - 10:06 AM

First, a site can't be everything to everyone. It's why so many major brands have several sites for several products and audiences, no?




Rudd: What Bryan and Jeffrey say is that there is no average user. So the idea of 'designing down the middle' since you 'can't please everyone' doesn't work. What you have to do is pick a few specific people, and solve their problems. Obviously you'll want to prioritize in terms of either who comes the most, or who is the most important to you, but yes some people will be left behind. In most cases, 4-6 personas cover the needed ground.

At best the site can be unobtrusive so the marketing can take its course and, using a combination of landing page and conversions paths, do its work for distinctly different audiences.


On this I'll disagree. Whether they're 'selling' or not, what I think most sites do is just lay out all the info for the user to find and digest. List of products, some brand imagery, maybe a few testimonials or awards splashed around, and the assumption is that the visitors will 'find what they need'. But this 'self-service' method doesn't work because users aren't generally willing to work that hard.

Think back to the gift buyer. I come to a site with fine watches (the $10k+ kind) and I know nothing. The site has all these brand logos and featured specials and even forums where the watch-collector-types are talkign about everything in unending detail. Can I learn what I need to buy the right gift? Probably if I am willing to spend the time, but I am probably not.

Now imagine the same site with a big starburst 'Looking To Buy A Watch as a Gift?' option on the home page. Immediately the gift buyer feels more comfortable, clicks, and gets presented a properly ordered version of the same info they could have themselves found elsewhere on the site. Of course, there are gift buyers with different characteristics (the methodicals will buy very differently than the spontaneous) but this extreme example hopefully illustrates the point - you can't effectively 'help them buy' without knowing who they are and what they are trying to accomplish.

#28 bwelford

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Posted 27 June 2006 - 10:40 AM

... but this extreme example hopefully illustrates the point

Welcome to the Forums, dpam. :wave: It's good to have your inputs. I must admit that phrase of yours really got me thinking.

Perhaps an even more extreme example will help to illustrate the point I believe important. It's all about helping purchasers purchase rather than trying to sell them something. That to me is the true definition of customer-centric.

My extreme example uses the analogy of a pirate's wooden leg for a website. A website is to help the visitor achieve a task, in this case to purchase something. Equally the pirate's wooden leg helped him get around after a traumatic incident. If you were a maker of pirates' wooden legs, you could be either product-driven or customer-centric. You could set up a store and have fine wooden legs available for whoever turned up. Or you could offer a custom-service where you helped your potential customer, who hopped into your store, get the perfect wooden leg that would allow them to function in the best possible way. Perhaps any pirate visiting here can comment on which supplier they would prefer to go to for their wooden leg. :D

#29 dgeary9

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Posted 27 June 2006 - 10:49 AM

However, how many of them were *satisfied*? We don't often think about their emotional or mental well being.

So how do we do that? And with "we" I mean; us little guys.

You look at the data (come on, did anyone expect a different answer from me :D ). Web visitor data is the "body language" of your online visitors.

For example, I just analyzed a software support site. I was looking for signs of user "frustration". Exiting from the search results page without reading anything. Running a search 3+ times without looking at any search results. Repeatedly bouncing back to the home page.

I am well aware that I was assigning people emotions based on data. I realize I won't have been correct in assessing the emotional state of each individual user. But on the group level, I believe I successfully isolated a group of people who were more frustrated on average than the general user on this support site.

Then I set out to learn more about these "frustrated" users. They were more often first time visitors. More often from a non-English speaking geography. More often users of (or searching for information on) an entry level product vs. a more advanced software tool. More likely to have forgotten their login password.

So what did those nuggets of information tell us? That there was a group of users - new, irregular, or ESL - that had a lot of trouble being successful on the current site. Senior staff and developers spent some time finding customers in this category, and having conversations with them, and then essentially designed a microsite for these users - much more straightforward, needs based navigation instead of product based navigation, highlighted FAQs, flash tutorials with lots of images and fewer words, etc.

"Frustrated" site visitor behavior went down. Calls to the call center went down - especially calls from new product users and users outside North America.

This was an analysis for a larger company, but the steps I took are very scaleable for the "little guy".

Start with your log files. Follow a single visitor through your site - where did they go, how long did they stay on each page. Try to put yourself inside their head. Do they seem interested (did they mostly click on your high level nav and spend a few seconds on each page, or did they get attracted deeper into an area on your site and spend a decent chunk of time on single pages, hopefully reading)? Do they seem focused (do they click down a very linear path, e.g. find - buy - gone, or do they stray off the path)? Do they seem committed (find content on your site that is tricky to track down, make it through non-user friendly forms, or do they abandon easily)? Are there trends you see - can you start grouping individual users into some categories?

Think of this data as body language, just like watching a shopper on camera at a brick-n-mortar store. Sure, you won't always be right, but web data can often give strong clues to the state of mind of your online visitors. And that is powerful, specific, and tangible insight to inform web design.

#30 dpam

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Posted 27 June 2006 - 11:24 AM

You could set up a store and have fine wooden legs available for whoever turned up. Or you could offer a custom-service where you helped your potential customer, who hopped into your store, get the perfect wooden leg that would allow them to function in the best possible way.


Right. The old selling drills or selling holes. Oops, I mean helping the buy holes.

#31 Black_Knight

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Posted 27 June 2006 - 12:33 PM

A web site's context comes from a certain look and feel which is maintained throughout the site. To radically break this pattern (layout/template) to accommodate for various suspected persona breaks the medium itself; and if the medium is broke -- how can you effectively deliver the message?

If within this forum the look & feel of the site would radically change between each sub-forum -- how would you be aware you're still on the same site? Where would your trust to pay us money come from?

You're still missing it, Ruud, which surprises me. We are talking about part of your expertise after all - a dynamic site, yet you keep thinking static.

What does where a user comes from tell you about who they are? What will their entry page selection add to that? And what extra refining information could their first click tell you, if only you had the foresight to place clickable things that tell you about them?

Then serve that look/feel throughout the site, all sub-forums, etc. Personalise the site to the context of the user and their needs. If they came to the site via a search that included the word "cheap" then offer them cheap first and mention the expensive only in passing, after focusing (as the customer does) on what they are asking for.

#32 Ruud

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Posted 27 June 2006 - 03:20 PM

Then serve that look/feel throughout the site, all sub-forums, etc.


Yes, technically certainly possible. But where from here? If you did a good sales job the customer will come back. Will he still be in the same mind set? The same mood? Do we present him with the same look we did last time, based on his context back then, or with a new one? The standard one? Should we show him a theme switcher knowing that most users leave settings to whatever default them come with? And how far do you go with this; change colors of a standard layout or, depending on whatever mood a customer might be in, change the whole layout?

I think there are elements we can use to achieve this "personalization". Helpers: I want to X, Y, Z. Different copy (marketing).

So the idea of 'designing down the middle' since you 'can't please everyone' doesn't work. What you have to do is pick a few specific people, and solve their problems. Obviously you'll want to prioritize in terms of either who comes the most, or who is the most important to you, but yes some people will be left behind.


Exactly! Because no matter what, the change we make to please person one will turn off person two.

The way the site looks can help make buying a pleasure. The way it works can make it a breeze (usability). Throughout all steps you attempt to sell/market your product.

The site becomes part of the identity (brand). To change that into a site which adapts to every whim seems disadvantageous.

To an extent a site then should act the same way a nice shop does. It helps set the stage, reinforces the emotions we want shoppers to experience – but in the end the building takes a step back to the actual sales process.

Now imagine the same site with a big starburst 'Looking To Buy A Watch as a Gift?' option on the home page. Immediately the gift buyer feels more comfortable, clicks, and gets presented a properly ordered version of the same info they could have themselves found elsewhere on the site.


Yes: marketing. That is a very helpful call to action but I wouldn't go so far as to say it is the site doing this job. The things the site can do are based on layout, colors, fonts, font sizes, etc. Design.

Although I'm not that fond of the site, the section pages on Amazon.com are in my book a good example of a site taking a backseat to marketing. Colors help set the mood for each section (design) while the ample space they have gives them the opportunity to deliver their various calls to action (marketing).

Whether they're 'selling' or not, what I think most sites do is just lay out all the info for the user to find and digest. List of products, some brand imagery, maybe a few testimonials or awards splashed around, and the assumption is that the visitors will 'find what they need'.


Yes, this is where I see "helpers" along the line of "Do you want to…?" come in. I also see an opportunity for copy. Unique design can help establish the identity and emotions – but that seems about it, to me.

However, if we've done our marketing homework, we know several segments visit the site. Each has different objectives for using the product.

So here are are new categories: The Commuter, Fitness Freak, Traveler, Audiophile, File Hoarder.


Nice setup. I think this addresses very well the lack of "expertise" we find on shopping sites. Who can I ask which shoes go best with my wife's new dress? Who can tell me why these two hard drives have identical features yet one is more expensive than the other? Which one should I buy?

At times I shop for technical toys necessities and I find myself doing research in another tab just to figure out what I should buy….

My personal view is that detailed personas area a waste of time.


I think they often are as it can be hard to learn how to apply them; how to apply what you find out this way. But at the very least it is an interesting mental exercise which will leave you with a few views of your site you wouldn't have come up with "just like that".

Personas is customer research for the poor, IMHO. Why conjure up personas if you have real people to study?


Because we don't have those people to study. Well, most of us don't, I mean. We can't talk or interact with them. We see them by the traces they left – but why did they do what they did? Personas might help to find the answer to that why.

I think that dgeary9 has a very interesting post on that.

Web visitor data is the "body language" of your online visitors.


What a great way of putting it!

Senior staff and developers spent some time finding customers in this category, and having conversations with them […]


Lacking that option, how would you have gone about doing something for this group? Personas?

I think any information that expands our awareness and gets us to think about how a site is used, and who uses it, is helpful to those who want to make a success of things.


Bingo. And I'm really grateful for this thread as my expressing my doubts or playing devil's advocate at times I'm able to learn a whole lot across a lot of fields.

#33 dgeary9

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Posted 27 June 2006 - 05:50 PM


Senior staff and developers spent some time finding customers in this category, and having conversations with them...

Lacking that option, how would you have gone about doing something for this group? Personas?

I personally don't develop personas without talking to customers. I think a lot of people see personas as a short cut for solid, data driven research and time spent talking to real people. I'm not one of them.

<soapbox>And I think practically anyone should be able to find the time to talk to their customers. You can conduct focus groups, online chat sessions, or call the last person that bought something from your store. It doesn't have to be expensive or formal. Lots of people start like Kim did and shanghai the nearest person that seems to fit.</soapbox>

In the case of the client example I was giving above, we culled a list of customers that had bought entry level products in the last three months and gave each senior exec and developer a list of 20 numbers, and told them not to stop until they had talked to 5 people. (Oy, let me tell you about a skeptical room full of people when this was assigned :) ). We also had some of them sit in on customer service calls. It cost no money, just time.

Essentially, take any opportunity you can to understand more about your customers - it helps you to read their "body language" that much better :).

#34 Black_Knight

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Posted 28 June 2006 - 12:43 AM

If you did a good sales job the customer will come back. Will he still be in the same mind set? The same mood? Do we present him with the same look we did last time, based on his context back then, or with a new one? The standard one? Should we show him a theme switcher knowing that most users leave settings to whatever default them come with? And how far do you go with this; change colors of a standard layout or, depending on whatever mood a customer might be in, change the whole layout?

I think there are elements we can use to achieve this "personalization". Helpers: I want to X, Y, Z. Different copy (marketing).

Now you're in the zone, my friend. You're applying your own answers to test even as you raise the questions. :)

Yes, those 'Helpers' are exactly the right way to help the customer communicate his/her focus to you and let you serve it.

Yes, switchable style sheets, or even templates, allow a customer to set their own tastes and preferences (and additionally, help you to determine from usage which looks seem to help or be preferred by which demographic of customer).

These can be done in a way to give people a good (tangible benefit to them) for creating an account/profile and logging in, which helps you to recognize repeat customers and buying cycles. You can add more reason with a virtual loyaly card or incentive scheme so that being logged in when they refer a friend, or buy each thing can give them a discount or bonus.

However, I think you may be placing too much emphasis on colours and 'feel' as persuasive devices. The most successful search engine the world has ever known is also the one that almost invented minimalism, and still tends to be the most neutral and plain.

Would more people really buy Horror fiction if it used blood red ink? Or would it just be harder to read? Should Romance novels be printed on pale pink pages? Sometimes it is better to be neutral. Remember my first tip - that marketers often think their failure is in providing too little, when in truth, they often provided too much and obscured the thing the customer wanted.

It is the content, and the 'sales pitch' that should be adapting to what you know of each customer or potential customer, not the suit of the salesman.

#35 fisicx

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Posted 28 June 2006 - 03:36 AM

Fascinating thread.

And whilst I'm not in the same pay band as most of the members in this thread I keep seeing the same subtext. If a website is to be effective it needs to deliver what the customer needs as well as persuade them that what else is on offer is what they want.

As suggested there are many different types of user, and the website can deliver to many of them.

My Dad goes to Amazon to buy a book. He finds the book and sees a big button that say's 'Click Here to buy'. It may fill you with horror to use the 'forbidden words' but my Dad is looking for the 'buy now' button.

My brother (a more careful soul) wants to find our more so he is looking for more information and can find it in the reviews.

My sister is a click anywhere person so amazon has given her lots of colourful links to pay with.

But the actual page is very simple. In the middle is the item. On the right is a means to buy the item. Below is detailed information. And around the outside are lots of options to play with.

It you build a site that has the core information slap bang in the middle then you have met the primary requirement. Give me a 'find out more link', 'click here to buy' button and so on to meet the needs of the differing visitors and you have done most of the job. Clever copywriting / use of images will do a lot of the persuading for you as will the choice of colours and fonts.

Simple works. Make it complicated and people switch off. Example: we have just been trained to use a new teaching software package. It took 2 hours to show us what all the icons did and how to navigate. We were not persuaded to use the software, not because the navigation was complicated but because it became more important than the actual teaching information.

Don't persuade them by adding stuff, persuade them by stripping out the fluff (remember the old saying: can't see the wood for the trees).

#36 bwelford

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Posted 28 June 2006 - 05:22 AM

I've always felt if you need to read the instructions (Help?), then the design was inadequate. .. and that doesn't just apply to websites.

.. and it's not just a man thing. :)

#37 Ruud

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Posted 28 June 2006 - 08:26 AM

However, I think you may be placing too much emphasis on colours and 'feel' as persuasive devices. The most successful search engine the world has ever known is also the one that almost invented minimalism, and still tends to be the most neutral and plain.


True -- as you can tell from my replies in the thread I'm more in that camp. The suit shouldn't be so loud as to draw away attention from the sales pitch; the suit should take a step back to let the sales pitch do its work :blink:

I'm all for adapting copy to the visitor -- but I think I will experiment with adapting design elements just to get a better hands-on feeling for how it would pan out in real time.

But the actual page is very simple. [...] Simple works. [...] Don't persuade them by adding stuff, persuade them by stripping out the fluff [...]


I think you have to, yes. Because presenting multiple options to switch between doesn't work. At least it doesn't in software. "Simple / Advanced Mode" - who wants to reduce the number of options they have? "Beginner / Expert Mode" - who wants to be a beginner?


I think one of the most practical and possibly most powerful ways to adapt the way the web site (inter)acts is based on the search query that brought a customer. Cnet welcomes Google users. Some blogs welcome you from your search engine and apart from the page you landed on present you with 4 or 5 other posts that might be related to your search.

And that would just be the beginning. Market research shows the average Google user to be a tad more technically informed and a tad more educated. MSN searchers tend to buy more.

In fact, on one of my own sites I consistently see traffic coming from a set of specific domains. I know what they are looking for because I know the context of the site they came from. I've been thinking about presenting people with such a referrer with an inline info box helping them to find the information relevant to them vs. just landing on the site.

I've always felt if you need to read the instructions (Help?) [...]


I wasn't aware software came with instructions :)

#38 cre8pc

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Posted 28 June 2006 - 08:42 PM

Just found this and it looks like a great resource link for this thread :P

Center for the Ethics of Persuasive Technology

definition of "persuasive technology"?

a technology whose purpose it is to motivate a person or community of people to change their behavior or influence them to make a decision or take some other action. Key tests for a persuasive technology include:

there is an element of automation to it - it has rules incorporated about behaviors and desired outcomes

it adapts to the response of the user(s) to it

there is a feedback loopo to it

it may or may not rely on an extensive set of behavioral data about the community



#39 DCrx

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Posted 28 June 2006 - 10:36 PM

There are a range of interesting topics. For example, is a picture of your product persuasive? What about a picture of your product being used? Could anything from the design of online casinos drop the rate of ecommerce shopping cart abandonment? Could seemingly trivial changes to catalog layout improve sales?

...hmmmm.

Edited by DCrx, 28 June 2006 - 10:39 PM.


#40 webword

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Posted 30 June 2006 - 01:49 PM

Buy Waiting For Your Cat to Bark (No, this is not an affiliate link.)


Kim, why feel guilty about affiliate links? If you believe in the product and you're open about the affiliation, why is this a problem? Do you feel there's a conflict of interest? Do you feel you are harming your editorial integrity?

What really gets me going is what happens after all the effort is put into getting someone to a website, and the action or inaction that occurs next.


So, I'm on your site; reading and thinking. I see your link and your disclaimer. In light of Persuasion Architecture what do you think is my next best action? Let's make this concrete. Would you rather have me click on the link and leave or would it be better for me to post a comment? I could do both but what is the first action. It is a binary choice.

However, how many of them were *satisfied*? We don't often think about their emotional or mental well being.


What are the best tools for measuring this? (Are there tools?) Blog comments? Usability tests? Ethnographic research? Polls? How can most folks move beyond web metrics and log analysis? How do we make the rubber meet the road? What is fast, cheap, and effective?

Edited by webword, 30 June 2006 - 01:54 PM.




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