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The funny thing about a preface is that it’s the first thing you read but the last thing I write. I’ve been writing this book for the better part of a year, and I’ve had to fight through trying to maintain some semblance of a life, writer’s cramp (believe me, it sure felt that way), and resisting playing Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater to get this book done. You might say I was motivated.

In today’s first years of the web, you might say that Internet users are motivated. They fight through slow-loading graphics, poor navigation systems, and alluring pop-under ads just to try to buy something. The battle with today’s sites is to make them usable so that users who want to buy something can.

There’s no argument that usability can only help improve your site. If your users can’t find a product or service, they can’t decide to buy it; if they can’t figure out how to use your shopping cart or application form, they can’t give you their business. Usability is good, but what comes next?

The answer lies in persuading the vast majority of unmotivated users to transact. There will always be those dedicated die-hards who know what they want and are determined to buy it. Everyone else, however, needs to be persuaded and supported through a decision process before they can even think about transacting.

This is a book about those decisions. It’s about supporting and moving users along a decision cycle so that they are able to and want to click on that submit button. It’s my hope that this book will help you to get more of your users to click.

Who This Book Is For

Web design attracts people of all kinds and backgrounds. From professional designers to the do-it-yourself business owner, everyone can benefit from learning how to make the most of the sites they design. This book was written with several types of readers in mind, and you’ll probably identify with one or more of them. Pick the persona that best suits you in terms of how you should read and use this book:

  • Marketers. You have overall responsibility for your company’s web site, and you need to find ways to get more of your visitors to transact. This book will help you look at your users in new way so that you can guide them to click with you.

  • Project managers. You recognize that you need to go beyond just delivering on time and on budget. This book will help you understand what it means to deliver the right type of content and functionality to meet your web site’s requirements.

  • Business analysts. You are responsible for defining the functional requirements of the site. This book will help you appreciate that you can’t just specify separate blocks of functionality—you need to connect them together to create a seamless and guided experience for users.

  • Information architects. As the user-experience design lead, you are responsible for structuring the site and choreographing the overall site experience. This book will show you different tactics to funnel users to transact.

  • Graphic designers. You are responsible for the look and feel of the site—you give the site its form and its character. This book will help you appreciate design on a page-by-page basis to move users forward in their decision process.

  • Developers. Last but not least, you are the people who create the code that actually makes things happen. This book will help you understand the importance of creating functionality that makes it easy for users to transact.

Let’s Get Vertical

To provide a wide range of examples and possible applications, this book also focuses on six vertical markets. These markets were chosen based on the following:

  • They are all trying to motivate users toward some call to action; if yours is a site that is simply there for people to explore, this is not the book for you.

  • They are meant to cover the gamut of different types of sites. Even if your site doesn’t exactly fit any of these verticals, you will probably be able to apply a combination of ideas from them.

As you read through the bulk of the chapters in this book, you’ll notice some thumb tabs with icons at the side of some of the pages. These tabs represent the six verticals, and they provide a quick reference as to which vertical a particular concept is applicable to. Persuasion is highly contextual, so something that works in one vertical might not be effective in another. These thumb tabs will help you find and identify the concepts that will be of most interest to you.

This book focuses on the following six verticals:

  • Retail. This vertical is at the forefront of persuasiveness. The retail vertical is about ordering goods online. If you’re selling anything—from books to clothes to electronics—this is the vertical for you.

  • Professional services. Lawyers, doctors, consultants, and designers all fit within the realm of professional services. This vertical is for people who sell themselves and their expertise. This vertical is about presenting a persuasive case to users that you are the right individual or organization to meet a prospect’s needs.

  • Online services. These sites provide some sort of service that is ordered or used online. The call to action for these sites is primarily to ask the user to sign up or become a member of the service. Two examples of online services are online photo ordering and web-based storage solutions.

  • Financial services. The common denominator for these sites is money. This vertical is about providing products and services that relate to bank accounts, investing, insurance, and loans. The uniqueness of this vertical lies in the fact that all of its products are virtual (for example, bank accounts have no physical presence) and that they are heavily based on trust and security.

  • Travel. Travel sites enable users to book a plane, rent a car, or reserve a hotel room. Travel sites are about booking short-term rentals of items located at remote places and are based on promoting convenience, safety, comfort, and leisure.

  • Marketplace. These sites connect buyers and sellers together. Users first must be convinced to become members, and then must be able to evaluate the other party with which they are considering doing business. Career sites and online auctions are common examples of marketplaces.

Summary of Chapters

The goal of this book is to arm you with practical design ideas that you can immediately apply toward making your site more persuasive. The meat of this book discusses how to design for users depending on where they are in their decision-making process and how to move them closer to transaction.

Here’s a quick summary of what each chapter will cover:

  • Introduction. This is Persuasion 101. You’ll learn the basics of how to influence users while reshaping your perspective on how web sites should work.

  • Chapter 1, “Getting Users to Click.” This chapter is the theory behind the book. It covers how users make decisions and introduces you to the four types of users featured in this book: browsers, evaluators, transactors, and customers.

  • Chapter 2, “Browsers.” These are users at the beginning of the decision cycle. They have recognized that they have a need, but they need some help to better understand what they should be looking for.

  • Chapter 3, “Evaluators.” These users want help in making a choice. They want to be able to compare alternatives, whittle down their options, and make a decision to transact.

  • Chapter 4, “Transactors.” These users have decided what and where they want transact. They need help and guidance to lead them through your call to action before they get lost or lose their motivation.

  • Chapter 5, “Customers.” These users have completed a transaction with you. They are looking to be taken care of and given a reason why they should transact with you again.

  • Chapter 6, “The Design of Everyday Pages.” Persuasion happens one page at a time, and this chapter explores the best way to design common pages that are found across all web sites.

  • Chapter 7, “Clicking It Together.” This chapter provides case studies of persuasive web sites for each of the six verticals covered in this book.

  • Chapter 8, “The Persuasive Web Design Process.” This section discusses the techniques you can use in your design process to ensure that your site is persuasive.

  • Resources.” If you’re hungry for more, this chapter has some of my favorite resources to fill your head with even more ideas.

Take It All with a Grain of Salt

As a book of ideas, Submit Now: Designing Persuasive Web Sites is not meant to be doctrine, and it definitely shouldn’t be used as rulebook to end design debates. It is, however, a book that will hopefully inspire you to think of your own ideas.

Persuasion is an art and a science. We can draw from principles of human psychology, but the effectiveness of persuasion will depend on how we creatively seek to understand and work with the ways in which people behave. Don’t let this book be the end of figuring out how to design your web site—let it be the start.

Andrew Chak

Fall 2002

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