Customers want to be inspired. Not persuaded.
Now to be fair, persuasion can be a good thing. Open, honest persuasion is definitely much better than downright dishonest manipulation or coercion. But is it really necessary?
The idea that if we craft clever paths into a website or other digital media, we will somehow enable users, who would otherwise not be interested in our products or services, to become willing customers is in large part a myth or an illusion. Now, to those who have followed my thoughts in the past, this may come as a surprise and sound like a major a departure from a previous stance I may have participated in. Which was to indeed, in some instances, market ourselves as “persuasion architects”. Again, to be fair, there is a large part of our work, especially with e-commerce that concerns itself with buy-flows. Persuasion may play a role there. But I now believe, the term “persuasion architect” is misleading.
We, as humans, make purchasing decisions at an entirely different level, that is actually far more emotional than we are willing to admit in most instances. And, more importantly, where external persuasion does not play a role at all. We then use our own “rational” arguments to justify our decisions. So, in that respect, the best a website can do is simply clear the way for an easy path to fulfillment. No real need for so-called “persuasion architecture”. However, the inspirational component is very much relevant. Brands can inspire us and lead us into action.
And so the more relevant question for digital media producers is: How do we most effectively weave that stickiness, that emotional inspiration into an experience that does not detract from the need to be totally transparent, fluid and easy to use? Better yet, how does that inspirational component actually make the experience even more fluid?
We’ve come to a point where pretty much every single business process from the most complex data analytics to the most pedestrian expense report is touched by technology. As a result there is an increasing number of opportunities for UX practitioners to get involved at the business level of enterprises and help make their tools more convivial and usable.
The interesting twist is that in the process of developing UX with business stakeholders, we often find ourselves in the position of questioning the very business processes that we were simply called to make more usable through better user interfaces. The assumption made by business at the outset, was that these processes were founded in sound logic and therefore it is just a question of developing the right “flow” on the screen.
What ends up happening instead, is that the practice of developing UX shines a sort of a design-thinking black light on the business process itself and reveals inefficiencies that might have gone unnoticed otherwise. The simple act of thinking the process from a UX perspective helps take that process through yet another efficiency filter.
What if UX practioners became the business logic architects of the future? What if it all came down to a visual sketching tool, that seamlessy scales up to a full fledged business application?
The branded appeal of a website in all of its components is just as important as its usability (or user friendliness) in order to guide the user to a specific goal. As we now know, decision making is first and foremost emotional. And that goes in every situation. I could be buying the most pedestrian commodity and even then my decision on who to buy from will be emotional before I justify it with “reasoning” or rationalizations. Therefore the emotional appeal of every touchpoint matters.
The touchpoints can be multiple steps in a multi-channel hybrid campaign with a complex decision tree (a relationship building engine so-to-speak) or in the context of a single website, the touchpoints can be 1. the focal point value proposition on the homepage, and 2. a specific call-out or call-to-action tile followed by a multi-step form-filling process. If your website focuses all its creative emotional energy on the homepage or landing page but then treats the call-to-action and the subsequent conversion steps as a series of purely functional (read non-relational) features, your website’s conversions will lose out in a big way.