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How to Influence User Behaviour through Design

27 June 2017

How to Influence User Behaviour through Design

One of the primary purposes of marketing is to persuade people to do something, be that signing up to a subscription service, spending money, or sharing something on social media. There are various tactics that marketers will use in their written copy but there are also techniques you can use in your design to influence people to act in a particular way. Certain patterns in human behaviour and psychology mean that people are likely to react more positively to some designs than others. Read on to discover how to harness these patterns to your advantage and build something which your clients will definitely thank you for.

1. Simplify the Action

If people think something is too complicated, they’re much more likely to decide it isn’t worth their time and effort. You need to make the action as simple as possible so that it doesn’t take up too much of the customer’s time or energy. You may need to confer with your client on how they want things worded but try to break things down into clear, achievable steps and, if you can, reduce the number of steps to as few as possible. If you’re designing part of a website, make each stage a separate page so that they only have to think about one thing at a time. You could also try to do some of the work or them. If you’re designing something to be printed, think about using QR codes to take people straight to the appropriate website.

2. Use Faces Wisely

Humans have a very special connection with faces. Did you know that babies start to recognise faces long before they recognise other objects? Unfortunately, as a result of our special affinity to human faces, they can be very distracting for us. Therefore, it’s best not to use images that include faces when you actually want people to be looking at something else. On the other hand, if you do choose to use a person’s face in your imagery, ensuring that their eye line is directed towards the call to action (CTA), could very beneficial. We automatically want to follow people’s gaze, so if they’re looking at the important part of the design, so will we. Look at these eye tracking heat maps and see how much more attention the writing receives when the baby is actually looking at it rather than to the audience.

heat maps and babies

3. Make the CTA Stand Out

Speaking of drawing attention to the CTA, you want to make this aspect of your design as noticeable as possible. After all, this is the part that tells users what you actually want from them! Use a contrasting colour to the rest of your colour scheme to make it ‘pop’. Leave negative space around the CTA to focus attention on it. Make it slightly bigger than your other text and imagery, but not so big that it completely overwhelms the rest of your design. And finally, don’t be afraid to use arrows to make it even more obvious where users need to go.

4. The Attention Ratio

The attention ratio refers to the number of things a person could do compared to the number of things a person should do. In other words, it’s the number of possible distractions compared to the number of things you want a person to do. The things you count can include chunks of text to read, images/infographics to look at, and interactive things to do (including links to follow on websites) but the point is that you want to keep the ratio low. Printed media is usually good at this because they are created for a specific purpose. Websites, however, are much more likely to fall victim to not sorting out their ratio due to things like adverts and links to other content.

5. Place the CTA on the Right

Have you ever heard of the Gutenberg diagram? It turns out it could be a pretty useful diagram for designers. To put it simply, it’s a way of splitting up a display into the different areas that viewers will focus on. According to the Gutenberg diagram, the most effective place to position a CTA is in the terminal area, the bottom right corner. This is because viewers will have naturally ended up in this area after having taken in all the other information. Many designers place the CTA in the bottom left corner (the Weak Fallow Area) which forces viewers to turn back on their natural viewing pattern which is unnatural.

place cta on right

6. Encourage People to Keep Scrolling

This final tip is specifically related to website design. Research has found that people prefer to scroll through websites to gather information, rather than clicking to open new pages. Loading new pages takes time and data whereas scrolling is much easier. However, you need to signal to new visitors that your website has more to see beneath the fold so that they do continue to scroll. One way to do this is to design your website with a border around the main content. This way, when visitors open a page they will see a border around the top and sides but not the bottom and this will indicate that the page isn’t finished there, as you can see in this example.

encourage scrolling

If you found this blog post useful, you may want to check out other posts from our Tutorials section. We try to bring together some of the more uncommon tips and tricks of design that usually only come with experience such as Things They Didn’t Teach You About Print in Design School, and The Ultimate Guide to Typography.


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