The web is all about action verbs. We click. We search. We navigate. We
make choices. Alone among other forms of media, we’re the ones who control
When organizations try to connect with their customers online, one of the
first things they always want to know is “how can we get our users to do
what we want them to?”
There’s an answer to this question, but it requires a change in mindset.
Marketers typically want to build awareness for their products, and they try
to replicate this broadcast approach on the web. They create static designs
that recall print ads, flashy microsites that replicate TV commercials, and
email blasts that resemble nothing so much as a street-corner barker, yelling loudly while he tries to press a flyer into your hand.
And then they wonder why users don’t do what they want them to.
Organizations that want to connect with users online need to shift their
approach from gaining awareness to building influence. Persuading people
to behave differently means understanding how to inspire people, motivate
them, and gain their trust.
The user experience field might rightfully say: “Influencing user behavior?
Why, that’s what we do!” And it’s true—if you’re looking for techniques
to prod people into behaving a certain way, your friendly user experience
designer can help you. They’ll tell you that the way to get users to do what
you want them to is to design a sexier landing page, chunk pages so they
flow better, and create an eye-catching call to action. Not working well
enough? Just A/B test different options until you find the optimal design.
We’ve lost our influence with users because our obsession with the medium
means we’ve lost our focus on what really matters — the message. We’re so
focused on form that we’ve forgotten about substance. It’s time to bring attention
back to what we want to say, not just how and where we want to say it.
Well, guess what? Long before there even was a web, we knew how to communicate
our messages by tailoring them to the needs and expectations
of an audience. We knew how to persuade people by appealing to logic or
emotion. We knew the art of rhetoric.