Designing for Persuasion, Emotion and Trust –

✍? First appeared Nortal’s blog.

The next loop of User Experience is about designing for persuasion, emotion, and trust. You still need good usability, but it’s often not enough to design a website that is easy to understand, navigate, and interact. Just because people can do something does not guarantee that they will — they must be motivated and persuaded to make decisions that lead to conversion. PET Design is rooted in social psychology and it’s pioneered by Human Factors Inc. It complements classic usability and user experience best practice. In this article I’m going to give an overview of Design for Persuasion, Emotion and Trust (PET Design) and take a look at some PET techniques in detail.

Currently I’m working as a user experience architect at Nortal, but I started my career as a freelance graphic designer more than 12 years ago. Like many others, I created hundreds upon hundreds of web pages as a freelancer, but I have to admit I more often than not felt like a mere tool… a hammer in the client’s hands. They might have wanted me to blindly copy big brands, for example design an Audi or Chevrolet style site for a small auto dealer, even though the users of the site might have been looking for something else entirely. I wasn’t too happy about it.


So after a while I realized that by designing I would love to solve real problems, and that site’s or user interface’s design is nothing without the power of ease-of-use. So I began my journey in the usability world. And yay… I was happy. But… of course, there’s a but.

In the beginning of 2010, I was working with a team, which was creating a new service for the Lithuanian National Library. It was a superb and innovative service, which let everyone order electronic or paper copies of books and documents from public libraries anywhere in Lithuania.

The team made a very detailed user analysis, provided comprehensive wireframes, created almost 200 different layouts in Photoshop, conducted usability testings… the service was excellent and it worked well. At the end of the project we were waiting for a big success, but… the service wasn’t as popular as we expected. We were baffled and wanted to know why. We found, by applying traditional usability techniques we can enhance efficiency, but just because people can do something does not guarantee that they will — they must be motivated and persuaded.

Usability is no longer enough

In short, usability stands for can do, but shouldn’t we be asking if they will do? For example, everyone can do sports, but does everyone do sports? (No.) We, as designers, must find a way to engage and persuade people to act.
We realized that usability was no longer enough. We had to step forward into the new world of user experience and emotional & persuasive design.

I started digging into social psychology and found that there are a lot of studies on engagement and persuasion. And it is not all that new.

Offline retailers had been using similar tools for years.

Photo: Lee Jin-Man

Author: Igor Gubaidulin

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