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5 bits of BS that will improve your website

Profile photo of Martyn McDermott.

By Martyn McDermott

6 min read

A laptop with muscular arms coming out from behind and a smiley face on the screen

Understanding the nuances of human behaviour can significantly enhance the effectiveness of your website. By integrating principles from behavioural science (BS), you can create more engaging, user-friendly, and persuasive online environments and digital products.

Here are five actionable ways that a better understanding of human behaviours can be used to elevate your website's performance.

Beware of the Paradox of Choice

Offering too many options can overwhelm users, leading to decision paralysis and reduced satisfaction. This phenomenon is known as the 'Paradox of Choice', and you can go further down this rabbit hole by reading the excellent book by Barry Schwarz.

Simplify your users' decision-making process by curating choices, removing the unnecessary, and highlighting recommended options.

This approach not only streamlines the user experience but also guides visitors towards desired actions, improving conversion rates. The rule of 'less is more' definitely applies when it comes to fostering user engagement and decision-making on your website.

You may have experienced this yourself - you've had a long day at work, and all that you feel like doing is slumping down in front of the TV and watching something mindless. You fire up Netflix and quickly, the initial calm turns to panic when you realise there's a staggering number of things you could watch, and your tired brain is so overwhelmed you sit there for ten minutes trying to choose the best something. When you settle on a choice, you have an undercurrent feeling of, "did I choose the right thing?" or "maybe I should have watched that other thing instead". You've made a choice, but you are not 100% confident in your choice.

Building trust through social proof

Humans are inherently social creatures, often looking to others for cues (shortcuts) on how to think, feel, and act. By weaving social proof into your website --- think testimonials, reviews, and case studies --- you're not just adding content; you're building a bridge of trust with your audience.

Seeing that others have had positive experiences with your brand can significantly influence new visitors' perceptions and actions, making social proof a powerful tool in your web design arsenal.

A screenshot of AirBnB's homepage showing their new 'Guest Favourites' feature
Take Airbnb as an example. They've mastered the art of social proof. As I write this post they have just announced another 'social proofing' feature, Guest Favourites badges. One component of their suite of social proof features I really like is their comprehensive review system, which breaks down feedback into specific areas like cleanliness and communication. This approach doesn't just add to the trust factor; it multiplies it, offering a nuanced view that resonates more deeply with users.

Authority and Expertise:

Websites can enhance their credibility by showcasing endorsements from recognised experts or influencers within their industry. This can include featuring guest blog posts, expert reviews, or testimonials that lend authority to the website's content and offerings.

Ethical use of scarcity and urgency

Scarcity and urgency can be potent motivators, encouraging users to take action for fear of missing out. However, it's crucial to employ these tactics ethically. Use genuine scarcity (limited-time offers, exclusive products) and urgency (countdown timers, limited spots available) to create a sense of immediacy that motivates users to act swiftly. However, misuse can erode trust and damage your brand's reputation, so always prioritise honesty and transparency.

The power of defaults

Defaults can significantly influence user behaviour because people often stick with pre-selected options. pricing page showing all plans with the default setting set to annual price plans

Carefully consider the defaults you set on your website, whether it's opting in for policies, selecting a product variant, or choosing a service package. Defaults should simplify the decision-making process and gently nudge users towards beneficial choices, both for them and your business. This strategy relies on the path of least resistance, making it a subtle yet effective way to guide user behaviour.

A nationwide energy supplier in Germany randomly gave prospective customers the option to actively opt into an energy contract exclusively from renewable sources, or to passively purchase it by not opting out.

Switching the default from opt in to opt out increased the purchase rate of new green energy contracts nearly tenfold, from 7.2% to 69.1%.

Fluff those ego's

The concept of "ego" in web design revolves around creating an experience that appeals to the users' self-perception and aspirations. It's about making the user feel valued, understood, and part of something greater. Tailoring messages to the user, such as personalised greetings or content recommendations based on past behaviour, can make the messaging seem more relevant and engaging. It feels as if the website "knows" the user, enhancing the effectiveness of the communication.

This can be achieved through:

User empowerment:

Designing interfaces that make users feel in control, such as customisable profiles or interactive elements that respond dynamically to user input, can boost their sense of empowerment. This approach caters to the users' ego by providing them with a sense of agency.

Aspirational content:

Featuring content that resonates with the users' aspirations or ideal self-image can create a deeper emotional connection. This might include success stories, aspirational imagery, or content that reflects the lifestyle or values that the user aspires to.

Recognition and reward:

Implementing systems that recognise and reward user engagement, such as badges for community participation or progress bars for task completion, can appeal to the users' ego. This recognition can motivate further engagement and loyalty.

Wrapping up

Remember, it's all about understanding how your users think and behave first, and then designing your website to align with those patterns. Keep it simple, build trust, use scarcity wisely, leverage the power of defaults, and gather quantitative and qualitative feedback to continually enhance the user experience.

Embrace these principles with empathy and ethical consideration, and watch as your website transforms into a more persuasive, user-centric platform.

At MAJOR, by embracing these strategies and many more, we don't just design websites and digital products; we craft experiences that resonate with users on a deeper level. This approach not only improves user engagement and satisfaction but also drives tangible results for your business.

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