The Six Commandments of a Persuasive Website Part 2

How to design a more persuasive website

In Part 1 of this series we discussed why understanding Dr Cialdini's Six Principles of Persuasion is essential to designing an effective website experience. Dr Cialdini’s principles are six human truths that explain why people do things when they are asked.

From Cialdini’s principles we created the Six Commandments of a Persuasive website. These commandments are six rules that every website will benefit from. The Six Commandments of a Persuasive Website are relevant to all roles involved in a website project - marketing managers, social media managers, marketing coordinators and assistants, CEOs, designers, developers, copywriters. The practice and performance of each of these people can be enhanced by understanding and applying the Six Commandments.

The first three of six commandments of a persuasive website are:

  1. A persuasive website gives before it asks for anything in return.
  2. A persuasive website knows the rarer something is, the more valuable it's perceived to be.
  3. A persuasive website uses cues to establish itself as the authority.

In part two we will share with you the final three.

Commandment IIII: A persuasive website is consistent with its messaging and visuals.

Consistency in design is not a new concept. We all strive for it, but you may not know why your marketing team holds everyone accountable to the brand guidelines. Dr Cialdini’s Principle of Consistency explains why.

Have you ever said ‘yes’ to a social event and then realised you couldn’t make it, or in more actual truth you didn’t want to go (hello digital introverts)? What did it feel like to tell the person you committed to that you were no longer attending? Was it uncomfortable?

More than likely it was uncomfortable. That’s because once we commit to a decision we have a desire to behave consistently with it. By acting consistently with our choices, we save our brain having to rethink problems. As a result, hardwired into human behaviour, consistency is seen as a positive trait.

Your customers look up to and like people and businesses who are consistent in their words, visuals, and behaviours.

‍How to use Commandment Four

The first part of using commandment four is to behave consistently at every customer touch point. This is where both visual and verbal style guides and your internal brand advocates, usually your marketing team, come into play.

Using visual cues like your fonts and logos consistently is essential. Follow your style guide and if you don't have one get one created by your design team. A good style guide defines your brand colours, logos, fonts, and overall photography direction and visual style.

In addition to visible markers, your users will look for consistency in more subtle ways such as how they feel when they visit your website and experience your brand. Consider what emotion you want to instil in your customers at every touch point. For example, how do you want your customers to feel when they interact with you? Is it happy, secure or excited?

This information should live in your overall brand style guide but can be made more practical with a section just on verbal and written style. You’ll need a copywriter to help develop things like a word or phrase bank, words we use, words we don’t and so on.

The second part of gaining influence through the Principle of Consistency is to take baby steps. Instead of expecting your users to make a significant commitment straight off the bat such as purchasing a product on your store the first time they visit, ask them to make a series of small commitments. As an eCommerce store, you might invite users to join your mailing list, open regular emails, view your blog or social content, purchase a trial pack all before you expect them to make a purchase.

The Principle of Consistency says that by committing to the set of more minor acts, your customers are more likely to want to behave consistently with their past behaviours, overtime working towards purchasing from your store.

‍Examples of Commandment Four

Jenny Craig
Weight Loss program Jenny Craig’s American website uses the Principle of Consistency by asking website users to calculate their BMI and offering a Live Chat function. Knowing that if a customer completes the calculator, explores the site and engages in Live Chat, they have made signs they are interested in committing to the program.

eCommerce platform Shopify offers two free tools aimed at startups, a business name generator and logo maker. Each works by getting potential store owners to commit to making a name and logo. Shopify knows if they get a store owner to create these assets they are more likely to commit to opening a store on the platform.

Commandment V: A persuasive website is authentic and likeable.

We enjoy spending time with the people we like. And, if we like someone we’re more likely to do a favour when asked compared to if we don’t like the person. It's also true between a business and its customers and of course a website and its users.

The Principle of Liking is one of the reasons social media has a strong driver for business growth. In fact we're now seeing the more real and authentic content like Instagram Stories and Vlogs break down the walls between company and customer even further and rise in popularity.

Video content, specifically less overproduced and authentic content establishes intimacy between the viewer and the brand. As a result, customers get to experience the brand’s values and personality and determine if they like them.

‍How to use Commandment Five

According to Dr Cialdini, five factors determine who we like, or in this case the brands and websites we love. They are:

Physical attractiveness
Just as we look twice at a well-presented and charismatic person, a well-designed website with personality also gets our attention and trust. As well as being functional, your customers are more likely to trust and be persuaded by your site if it looks good. Well-designed means considering everything from colours, typography, layout, tone of voice, content hierarchy and imagery and photography.

We are attracted to people/brands/websites who are similar to us, sharing the same experiences, opinions, personality traits, or lifestyles.

Compliments in a person-to-person relationship encourage us to respond positively to a person who pays us one. The same applies when it comes to the relationship between your website and your user. While it’s good to be respectful and personable to your users at all times, compliments don’t need to be handed out at every opportunity. Otherwise, they risk being disingenuous.

Contact and Cooperation
We like people and brands who value the same things as us and have a similar mission in life. We often see the About page on a website is the most visited page. Users come to this page looking for clues if your business shares the same mission and values as they do.

Conditioning and Association
People like people or brands that are associated with an ideal they value. A value may be ‘athletic’ in the case of Under Armour, ‘ethical’ in the case of Everlane, or ‘design-savvy’ for Apple. For these brands, everything they do is carefully considered to associate their brand with this core value.

Examples of Commandment Five

The following examples demonstrate how different brands use the elements of liking to be more likeable to their users. Many of the businesses in the examples use other principles of persuasion on their websites and in their marketing strategies, but we’re only discussing where the Principle of Liking is evident.

Physical attractiveness: Koala
One of our favourite well-designed (a.k.a Physically Attractive) websites is Australian mattress manufacturer Koala. Koala’s online experience is carefully considered and executed. The brand’s limited colours teal and navy are carried throughout the site from typography to custom imagery— look at the colour of the bed sheets and bases. The website uses short chunks of copy, which is excellent for glancing and scrolling, and all copy is friendly and likeable, with loads of uses of first-person pronouns (we, you, your).

Similarity: Bonobos
Bonobos is a US menswear retailer. Founded by two Stanford graduates Andy Dunn and Brian Spaly who couldn’t find the perfect pair of pants and didn’t enjoy the typical shopping experience. Dunn and Spaly built a company around their needs and developed a laser-focused customer promise to deliver better-fitting and better-looking pants to men.

Highlighted across the brand's website this targeted positioning speaks to men who have experienced the same frustrations when shopping — making them feel like they have something in common with Bonobos. A testament to the success of this strategy, Bonobo’s now provides the entire category of better fitting and better-looking men's clothing and accessories.

Compliments: Refinery29
Refinery29’s content strategy applies the Principle of Liking by complimenting their reader's life experiences and intelligence. Evident in content and articles they write and more directly on their About Us page where Refinery29 describes their readers as, “Our audience is comprised of determined dreamers who are smart and passionate, always seeking out the full potential in every aspect of their lives.”.

Contact and Cooperation: Everlane
Everlane’s About page is an excellent example of applying Contact and Cooperation to attract like-minded customers. The page leads with a statement about their mission for more transparent and ethical fashion before explaining their three fundamental brand values: Ethical, Quality and Transparency. By informing customers of their mission, Everlane invites like-minded customers to work with them to achieve their mission.

Conditioning and Association: Bumble
Dating App Bumble was first founded to turn dating norms on their heads with women making the first move. Now offering dating, networking and friendship within the app Bumble empowers women to ‘connect with confidence’. Confidence and female empowerment are the brand’s values. These values flow throughout the brand experience, they are evident on the Bumble website within a letter from founder Whitney White, in the brand’s content hub - The Buzz, and throughout offline brand activations such as events and partnerships.

Commandment VI: A persuasive website celebrates its fans.

Commandment Six is based on Dr Cialdini’s originally principle of Conesus. Now more popularly known as Social Proof, the original principle explains people look to the decisions, actions, and behaviours of others to determine their own. Especially when there is doubt or uncertainty around a decision.

Social proof was once a survival instinct. People would turn to look to see if other hunters and gatherers thought it was safe to access the drinking water before venturing out themselves. In today’s world, customers seek out social proof online to validate their perception of a business before making a decision. With resources like Instagram, TrustPilot, Google reviews, Yelp social proof online is one of the most powerful assets a business has. And your website should celebrate it.

How to use Commandment Six

There are five types of social proof; below is a description of each along with a real-world example. Try implementing one or some of these tactics on your website.

The approval from relevant industry experts. Expert social proof can be in the form of an expert from your field guest writing for your website. The chosen expert doesn’t need to endorse your product or service directly, their expertise can have a halo effect on your brand.

Paid or unpaid endorsement from celebrities or influencers. Celebrities social proof is when celebrities act as brand ambassadors or spokespeople for your product or brand.

Approval from past customers. Ratings, reviews and testimonials are all examples of User Social Proof. Most Content Management Systems (CMS) offer applications that can integrate and display your Facebook, Google Reviews or ratings from other platforms on your homepage, service or product pages. Reviews and testimonials in this format are in real time can look more authentic say a slider of customer testimonials. It doesn't need to be a case of one of the other, use both types. For marketing, add customer testimonials to the bottom of your email marketing campaign. Use other customers’ experiences to demonstrate others have taken up your offer and leverage social proof.

Wisdom of Crowds
Approval from a collective of other people. Wisdom of the crowds is different to Users because the approvals come from a collective rather than an individual. Examples include overall ratings, lists like Most Popular Products, or carousels with ‘Customers like you also purchased’.

Approval from friends and people you know. Social proof from peers can be leveraged as a customer acquisition strategy to create a referral program or as a simple tactic online where you can connect social profiles to show users which if the Facebook friends like the brand.

Examples of Commandment Six

Experts example: OralB
Positioned as ‘The brand more dentists use worldwide’, OralB is another brand who has positioned itself using one of Dr Cialdini’s principles. Rather than a specific expert, Oral B uses the profession of Dentistry to reinforce that is a brand trusted by others.

User example: HelloFresh
HelloFresh displays live customer tweets on their homepage and real customer testimonials. The brand purposefully uses real customer photos for the testimonials which look authentic.

Wisdom of Crowds example: iTunes
iTunes uses both star ratings and a ‘Listeners Also Subscribed To’ banner.

Celebrity example: Uber Eats
In a brand awareness campaign, UberEats launched a celebrity endorsement campaign to promote its meal delivery service to Australians. From top-seeded tennis players in the Australian Open to Australian celebrities like Rebel Wilson and Ruby Rose, the brand shared stars ordering from UberEats to encourage Australian’s to do the same. Because if Nadal uses it, it must be worth trying.  

Peer examples: Airbnb and Dropbox
Both examples leverage Peer Social Proof by rewarding customers who refer a friend to their services. Airbnb gives customers a $25 voucher for referring a friend. Dropbox offers users 500MB when they refer a friend to the service.

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Persuasion is an essential business communication tool, as is your website. Understanding the human truths behind persuasion is the key to having a more effective website for your business and for designers and developers, the key to making websites better for clients.

It feels appropriate to say here, sustainable business growth needs to come from a place of ethical and honest behaviour. These commandments were written with the intention of helping businesses who offer true value to their website users, customers, and clients. Businesses who use these commandments to persuade their website without offering value will fade off over time.

We hope this series has also shown you how the Principles of Persuasion can be used to design better websites.

Curious about creating a more persuasive website? We’d love to talk it over. Mention this article and get a complimentary 15-minute discovery call. Reach us at