Daily UX Crash Course: 26 of 31

Continuing with the psychological aspects of UX, we’re going to get into the area of UX where I have done the majority of my research:



(If you’re just starting the UX Crash Course: Start Here.)


Persuasion is complex. My book, The Composite Persuasion, specifically about making things persuasive, and it is only a “Crash Course” in itself!

This lesson also completes Lesson #23: UX Copywriting, because it tells you how to structure longer, persuasive text and articles.


Two main ideas:

1) Persuasion has 8 universal ingredients. They are usually most effective when done in order, because they build on each other.

2) People are motivated by 14 things. I will explain the 4 motivations that are most common in digital things.


The Persuasion Formula

After comparing 40 different types of persuaders, I found that all of their methods share 8 common attributes, listed below.

Before the Interaction:

Credibility — Without trust, everything else is irrelevant. Ideally you should build your credibility for real, however, the main thing is to communicate with others in a high-value way. In UX, this applies to everything from trustworthy branding, to transparency about your prices, to testimonies from customers. Don’t say you’re valuable; show them.

Know Your Audience —  In UX, that means you do your User Research so you know who you are persuading and what they care about.


During the Interaction:

Open & Disarm — You have to engage the user’s interest immediately, and then proceed to remove any obvious objections they might have. In UX this can be a great headline or an eye-catching image above the fold. If price is a concern, for example, that should be part of the first information the user can see. Don’t assume they will continue far enough to learn about it later.

Create Rapport(say rah-por) is the feeling of getting along with someone and it is created by similarities between people. In UX, this can be created by using familiar language, showing what the user has in common with your customers, or describing the main person in your article in a way that makes the reader relate to them.

Isolate — When a user has come far enough that their interest is clear, you want to remove any competing information. In UX that might mean removing the menu or banners during the checkout process so nothing distracts the user from their purchase.

Convince — For more complex persuasions, you may need to provide “waves” of information that leads the customer from the basics to the details, so they understand step-by-step. There are a variety of ways to do this. Cognitive Biases are often helpful to frame the information in a way that makes it easier to accept, and easier to consume.

Close the Deal — Just ask for commitment and don’t over-complicate it. In UX this is the “publish” button or the “confirm purchase” button, or the “share” button.

After the Interaction:

Summarize with Bias — Don’t let the persuasion end with the close! That makes people feel like you only value them until they give you what you want. In UX this might be a follow-up email to remind them about everything they can do with their new Macbook, or suggestions for more articles, or feedback about how many people liked/agreed with their post.


Universal Motivations:

Ever seen Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs? Forget about it. Marketers still learn it in school, but psychologists left it behind a long time ago.

There are 14 things that humans will always be motivated to gain or  protect: Avoiding death, avoiding pain, air, water, food, homeostasis (bodily functions), sleep, sex, love, protection of children, status, affiliation, justice, and understanding each of those things better.

All of those things will have an audience — and trigger emotional responses to different degrees — but on the internet, Status, Affiliation, Justice, & Understanding are particularly useful because they are just ideas.They are also unlimited, and you can create them from scratch, for free.

Status — is the main ingredient in gamification. Basically it is any way to measure yourself relative to other people. When you design a system of points and trophies, or symbols of power and appreciation, you now control the perception of status for your users. It can be badges, likes, or levels in Candy Crush Saga. Users will be more motivated to feel superior to each other, and if you attach those achievements to your business goals, you will literally get money for nothing but feelings.

Affiliation — if you are a loyal fan of a sports team or a band, or if you feel proud to be part of a great organization or a special interest group, that is affiliation. The reason people join Facebook groups, or dress a certain way, or do a test to find out “Which Grey’s Anatomy character are you?!” is because they are motivated to belong to things. Design somewhere for people to belong, and watch your users identify themselves into groups or categories.

Justice — is the idea of fairness or “getting what you deserve” whether that means a reward or a punishment. It’s why we cry for people that get no respect and then have amazing operatic voices on Britain’s Got Talent, and why Justin Bieber haters love watching him get arrested. Design a way to help underdogs get noticed, or for the crowd to find evil and destroy it, and they will.

Understanding — People are motivated to learn more (and even feel they deserve to know more) about anything that involves large doses of the motivations above. However, it is a lot more practical than that. If you try to change something that took time to learn, like the design of your interface, people might be enraged. Remember the groups of people with pitchforks and torches after Facebook did a major re-design? Exactly.


Protip: Notice that money isn’t on the list? That’s because money isn’t motivating in itself. If it was, you would be motivated to get money even if you couldn’t spend it, but you’re not. However, we are motivated to get the status that money creates, even in the form of points which are basically worthless in the world.

Whoa. That was a lot. Take some time to think about it. Even better: look for real-world examples of it.

Tomorrow we will learn the difference between beginners and “power users”: How Experience Changes Experience.