March 31, 2019

What Motivates Your Audience

What motivates (and doesn’t) web traffickers is a mystery. Discovering solutions often feels like a futile endeavor, but there are some universal suggestions to clear a path to improve your website’s user experiences.

Create a Virtual Water Cooler

Have you ever wondered why people hang around the water cooler? It isn’t hydration. It’s to hear how other’s weekends were or an experience at a new restaurant. Get the picture? It’s to listen to stories because they spark an emotional response. Capitalize on this desire by including anecdotes wherever possible.

“One of the reasons why anecdotes are more powerful than data is that anecdotes are in story form. They invoke empathy, which triggers an emotional reaction. With emotional reactions, people will process the data and the feelings. Emotions will also trigger memory centers” (Weinschenk, 2011, p.168).

Having hard evidence on why your product or service offers the best solution for visitors is important, but if you want to convert, get that sale, increase your odds by including a relevant anecdote.

Embrace Our Lazy Nature

A biological evolution to conserve energy has left us lazy, so don’t overburden people with options and information. It may seem counterintuitive, but too many options will negatively impact your bottom-line. In our need to conserve energy, we will make decisions based on what we deem “good enough” rather than attempting to find a perfect solution. The theory is called satisficing, a term credited to Herbert Simon (Weinschenk, 2011).

Make Sure Your Website is Credible

The perception of credibility is the catalysis for most websites. If people believe that your site and brand is credible, they are more likely to interact with your website and buy products or subscribe to services.

You can have the best product in the world, but if your website doesn’t follow conventions or—God forbid—looks like a Web 1.0 design, good luck convincing visitors to part with their hard-earned cash. An out-of-date website can destroy visitor confidence even if your content is the best in the field. The mantra drilled into our heads, “Content is King,” needs a “but” when applied to user experience. “Content is King as long as your website follows current norms.” Admittedly, it is not nearly as catchy but is more accurate. Following design norms will enable your content to be the distinguishing factor in the purchasing decision rather than which website instills more confidence. A poor website can sabotage your brand.

Studies have suggested that site attributes—layout, graphics, videos, etc.—can compensate for visitor unfamiliarity with a brand or sponsor content. “…under conditions where web sponsors are unfamiliar to the user, design elements can potentially boost perceptions of site credibility to levels equal to those for familiar sponsors,” (Flanagin & Metzger, 2007).

Remember a poor website equates to a poor brand. Strong brand recognition and positive a image are invaluable to the online buying process.

Avoid the Visual Intensity Pitfall (It Won’t Solve Banner Blindness)

The idea of banner blindness dates back to the 90s. Experienced web users become inured to them and proceed with their business without a thought. How do you penetrate the blindness? Increasing the frequency and intensity of marketing elements is the common answer.

Banner blindness with her cousin repetition blindness—the tendency of users to ignore advertising content after repeated exposure—is the bane of all digital marketers.

With the fierce competition for eyeballs, any marketer could be forgiven for believing that to standout he or she needs to increase the visual intensity of the company website. Visual intensity is “interactive objects such as banner ads, pop-ups, landing pages, recommending interfaces or other elements that use call-to-action messages” (Jankowski, Hamari, & Wątróbski, 2019).

The tendency to increase intensity is understandable. How else is a brand supposed to penetrate the noise? The problem with this line of thinking is everyone is attempting it, which only leads to repetition blindness and potentially a negative brand impact.

Since the entire reason for visuals is to motivate viewers to perform an action (e.g. clicking) and promote positive brand attitudes, it is detrimental to brand health to attempt to bludgeon your audience with visual intensity. People are only willing to tolerate so many pop-ups and animated banners. Recent studies have found negative effects from increasing visual intensity.

“Adding attention-catching elements such as high-frequency flashing components resulted in increasing negative reactions. Further, increasing the visual intensity of the object results in a higher number of negative reactions vs. positive effects…Excessive exploitation of a website can lead to lower user comfort levels, loss of audience and failure to generate enough positive results to compensate for adverse side effects” (Jankowski, Hamari, & Wątróbski, 2019).

The next time you feel that you’re struggling to reach your audience consider focusing on anecdotes and giving your viewers fewer options to mull over and be certain to avoid the temptation to inundate them with visuals. If you follow these suggestions, your organization may see improvements in customer interactions.


Flanagin, A. J., & Metzger, M. J. (2007). The role of site features, user attributes, and information verification behaviors on the perceived credibility of web-based information. New Media & Society, 9(2), 319-342. doi:10.1177/1461444807075015

Jankowski, J., Hamari, J., & Wątróbski, J. (2019). A gradual approach for maximising user conversion without compromising experience with high visual intensity website elements. Internet Research, 29(1), 194-217. doi:10.1108/IntR-09-2016-0271

Weinschenk, S. M. (2011). 100 things every desinger needs to know about people. Berkeley, CA: New Riders.