Which Design Principles Make Your Website More Persuasive?

Orla McGrath

Persuasive design and your website content go together to win more customers

  • Applying persuasive design principles creates websites that win more customers.
  • They make your website more appealing, boosting its conversion capability.

Persuasive website design that sympathetically supports your content provides you with the ability and opportunity to convert more visitors into customers. Importantly, the ingredients of persuasive design need to come together in a winning recipe that ultimately will give you an appealing website.

These ingredients aren’t magical—but when brought together correctly they are transformational. Here’s what I’m talking about:

  1. Clarity—probably the most important ingredient because it helps your website visitor to answer.
  2. Where am I?
  3. What can I do here?
  4. And why should I do it?
  5. Visual appeal—pretty self-explanatory as first impressions are important for your website credibility and can be lasting.
  6. Visual hierarchy, which needs to be strong as, without it, your visitors may not look at the things you want them to see in the right order. So, visual hierarchy deals with the issue of making things stand out in order of importance. How you make important elements standout are significant considerations.
  7. Attention grabbing and conserving—once you’ve got their attention you want to keep it and keep them on their scent trail.
  8. Only one action for your visitor on each screen—Steve Krug, the usability guru, says “It doesn’t matter how many times I have to click, as long as each click is a mindless, unambiguous choice.” Therefore, part of your persuasive design is intelligent, data-informed use of various elements such as call to action (CTA) buttons, navigation, and onsite search.

Checklist for clarity

Let’s look at a few things that underpin the top ingredient, clarity, because ultimately this is what you need to focus on above all (read more about this in our article on clarity in web design).

  1. Contrast—emphasises or highlights key elements within your website, guiding your visitors towards the important messages or actions on your webpage. Ensuring your CTA buttons have the appropriate visual hierarchy and are consistent throughout the website add to its persuasiveness.
  2. Alignment—helps with visually-ordered design. It forms relationships between items on the page, for example, aligning navigation items horizontally across the top of the page or right-aligning descriptive or instructional text next to form fields. Alignment is key to “gaze cueing”, directing the visitor’s attention through your content towards the CTA.
  3. Proximity—group similar elements, creating relationships between them. It gives the visitor an idea of where they should start and finish. It works together with alignment to help with efficient interpretation of a website and its messages. Buying triggers are important here.
    For example, a CTA button supported by a “Free Delivery & Returns” text link positioned nearby may well persuade your visitor to buy as it states that there aren’t further associated costs and it reassures them that they can return the product for free if it doesn’t meet their expectations.
  4. Repetition—creates association and consistency, reducing the cognitive load for the visitor because what they see is similar-looking and positioning of your CTA buttons, making their function clear. Repetition reduces anxiety by providing a familiar and usable interface that allows the user to follow their scent trail without distraction.
  5. Balance—gives stability and structure. It is the visual weight distributed on the page by the placement of elements, such as placing a large element on one side of the design and several smaller elements on the other. White space is vital to creating a sense of visual balance and it is why it is necessary to avoid crowding every pixel of a webpage’s real estate with CTAs and text.
    Balance works hand in hand with the other four principles listed here to reduce distraction, guide the user, ease anxiety, and ultimately guide them towards your intended outcome.

Content is part of your design too

Your content is not a separate element of your website. In reality, it is integral to the overall design. And ideally, your website designers will use real copy when developing their designs with a view to presenting it in such a way that is easier for your visitors/customers to find the information they need, whether it’s words or images.

Although, we understand that people generally scan websites rather than read them you do need to consider readability or rather scan-ability within the designing process.

The size of the fonts you choose can either help or hinder. Know your target audience – older, poorer eyesight = bigger fonts.

Also, use a familiar font. Avoid using all capitals and overdoing italics as it takes longer to read and comprehend text in irregular styles.

Line height and spacing between paragraphs also avoids the dreaded wall of text. Indeed, if you’ve got a lot of detail in your copy break it up into more easily digestible parts like bullet lists and short paragraphs. The same goes for when you need a lot of copy to support a complicated product/service.

Baymard Institute suggests that you use 50 to 60 characters per line, including spaces. Another source suggests that up to 75 characters is acceptable. This is because long lines cause focusing and scanability problems. But, paradoxically, if the line of text is too short, it can interrupt the flow of the copy. So, you need to aim for what is natural.

Finally, test your content together with the rest of your persuasive design. The two as I say above are integral to the success of your website.