A Mental Model for Persuasion Architecture

A Mental Model for Persuasion ArchitectureRecently, my erudite buddy Bryan posted a comment on an e-consultancy forum. His observations included a brief discussion of the value of Persuasion Architecture - which, as you dear readers know, is our synthetic philosophy for creating and managing your online presence. Bryan got a comment from a fellow named Chris, who said,

"I can't help but think of persuasion architecture as one of those multiple choice ending books that I last read twenty years ago - 'turn to page 121 if you think A, turn to page 84 if you think B...' etc. There are a number of scenarios on each page and a persuasive writer would be able to channel readers towards the right decision."

Now, we all know reading a book isn't exactly the same thing as working your way through an ecommerce Web site, but Chris's insight is a remarkably clever metaphor for exactly what Persuasion Architecture hopes to accomplish: helping your visitors to achieve their goals (not always The End and absent the connotation of right or wrong) in the ways that suits them best.

Remember. Everything you do is about pulling your visitors along, motivating them to take the next step. It's not about pushing them, or requiring them to accommodate your master plan of what they need. Until you present your entire conversion system from your visitors' points of view, you aren't really being as persuasive as you could be. And that means you will always be experiencing lower conversion rates than are possible.

Think folks are doing a good job pulling their visitors merrily along their way? Not according to a study by OneStat.com. They evaluated Web metrics for a number of sites and determined the number of pages a visitor went to:

1 page view 9.52%

1 - 2 page views 54.60%

2 - 3 page views 16.56%

3 - 4 page views 8.75%

4 - 5 page views 4.43%

6 - 7 page views 1.41%

7 - 8 page views 0.85%

8 - 9 page views 0.68%

9 - 10 page views 0.51%

more than 10 page views 2.69%

Think about those numbers a minute. You might say it took folks two pages to figure out they were in the wrong place. Baloney. Almost 55% of folks were interested enough to click one or two steps deeper into the process before bailing. This is a pretty clear indication that the sites are failing to provide a majority of their users enough "scent" (motivation, persuasion, value) to keep them in the process. Needs aren't getting met, and lots of Web sites aren't meeting them!

Chris groks Persuasion Architecture, so I'll let his words do the talking.

"Persuasive design links the user buying experience to a company's sales process, theoretically bridging the buy/sell vacuum that we see so often. You really need to know how users behave to generate sales growth - and surely if you can influence that behaviour then the journey from the landing page to the 'thank you for your order' page should happen more frequently and more effectively.

"By considering the user journey at a micro-level it is possible - given some time to research, implement and experiment - to turn more users into customers, to keep them happy and to ensure that they stay with you for longer.

"How can one seemingly tiny element of a web page prevent a user from reaching the checkout? How might one poorly-constructed sentence have a disproportionately large negative impact on the decision to buy? How is it possible to act on what you know about your users, given that they must all be different people with different wants and needs? It sounds impossibly complex to bring all these things together, but surely it is more about attention to detail, good copy and perhaps a sprinkling of user-guided personalisation?"

It does seem impossibly complex when you think about it from the big picture point of view. But it isn't any more complex than lots of other constructions. When you design persuasively by following a logical methodology (MAP), things can actually get pretty obvious.

Just like the type of book Chris mentions, Persuasion Architecture is fundamentally about designing individual scenarios (navigation paths) into your conversion system. These let folks interact with you in ways that are meaningful to them. These make it more likely folks will take action on your site. These will improve your conversion rates.

Keep in mind that everyone on your Web site is involved in a journey. You just need to make sure the journey is as satisfying as reaching the goal. Because without the journey, they won't get to The End.

If you are interested in reading an overview of Persuasion Architecture and MAP, check out our newest white paper.

Volume 88: 3/01/04

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