Conversations start on the web.

Customers often have their first interaction with companies on the web. Their actions can be guided effectively if designers can understand how customers act, on what they are naturally inclined to click and ultimately what they are wont to purchase.

Thank goodness designers can turn to decades of research in social psychology, behavioral economics and human decision making to help them make strategic design decisions.

Persuasion Emotional Trust

The folks at Human Factors International are big fans on PET - Persuasion Emotional Trust -- a rigorous research-design process. In the first stage, research uncovers the drives that motivate consumer actions and the blocks that can inhibit or undermine them. In the second stage, design creates the conversation, defining the decision space and encouraging key actions.

By implementing PET, design organizations aim to develop a digital content strategy that shifts attitudes and drive consumers toward behaviors that benefit them and their bottom line.

HFI outlines a lot of these design concepts in their white paper, Convincing is Converting.

Contrast Strategy

By designing decision spaces that drive consumers toward a specific choice, designers can create a desired offer next to a less appealing, but clearly similar, offer to make the desired choice appear more valuable.

Designers often miss persuasive design opportunities when they present options from least to most expensive. With this configuration, the customer, not the designer, defines the decision space: the low end anchor/least expensive is first on the list. The high end anchor is the last. As soon as the customer sees what the price range they can afford, they likely won’t read any further.

By simply reversing the presentation order (highest price to lowest), designers can increase the likelihood that customers will encounter higher priced contrast options and extend their consideration set to include a higher price range.

Perhaps this is how we got into our current financial crisis.

Decision Paralysis

Decision paralysis is fairly common. Offering a vast array of choices draws attention but inhibits buying. In contrast, a smaller selection set ultimately encourages buying behavior.

Ten times more buying behavior, to be exact. Having lots of options to explore draws attention and interest. Each additional option increases the perceived complexity of the decision.

From Place to Space

It's no surprise that consumers are on the web for everything, from errands to purchases. The online space is no longer an extension of an organization’s place of business. It is the only place and it impacts how businesses and agencies build relationships with consumers and constituents.

Whitepaper authors Spencer Gerrol and Kath Straub write:

In the past, “helpful humans” inspired trust. Careful conversations informed, encouraged, and even cajoled, converting consumers to customers. Today the helpful human has been replaced by technology and often the conversation begins -- and ends -- on the web. The agent is different, but the conversational goal is the same: engage, persuade, convert. Do you know enough about your customers to converse and persuade without being there?

To learn more about the PET process visit

Sign up for their many webinars and read their white papers.