100 Things You Should Know about People: #1– You Have "Inattention Blindness"

I’ve decided to start a series called 100 Things You Should Know about People. As in: 100 things you should know if you are going to design an effective and persuasive website, web application or software application. Or maybe just 100 things that everyone should know about humans!

The order that I’ll present these 100 things is going to be pretty random. So the fact that this first one is first doesn’t mean that’s it’s the most important.. just that it came to mind first.

I hope you enjoy this series. Make sure to let me know by posting comments.

So here’s #1 — Inattention Blindness

First let’s start with a little test for you to take. Watch the video below:

This is an example of what is called “inattention blindness” or “change blindness”. The idea is that people often miss large changes in their visual field. This has been shown in many experiments. Here is a description of an experiment conducted outside the lab:

So what does this mean if you are designing a website or something on a computer screen? It means that you can’t assume that just because something is on the screen means that people see it. This is especially true when you refresh a screen and make one change on it. People may not realize they are even looking at a different screen. Remember, just because something happens in the visual field doesn’t mean that people are consciously aware of it.

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Watch Out For Spending More Because of Habit

When I go to fill up on gas I always use the middle grade of gas… (this is the principle of contrast, by the way… when faced with choices of varying prices many people will pick the price that is one down from the most expensive… but that is a sidebar… it’s not even what this blog post is about!). And the middle grade of gas is supposed to be in the middle, right?

I don’t know if I’m getting paranoid these days or if this is a random occurence, or if some companies are actually trying to get me to spend more money, but here’s what I’ve been noticing: Instead of having the middle price in the middle… the HIGHEST price is actually in the middle! By habit I put the nozzle in the tank and always push the middle button… And I am therefore, unwittingly, choosing the most expensive gas.

Here are some examples:

And as we all know, once a habit is formed, it’s hard to break.

Anyone else been noticing this type of “switch” at gasoline pumps or in other ways?

Case Study: Applying Neuro Web Design to a web site for "Creative Wealth Building"

Nick Pfennigwerth took his old site:

and applied some of the principles in my book Neuro Web Design: What makes them click? Here is what Nick wrote to me:

“What I found most interesting and what I applied the most was activating the old brain. If you go to, www.creative-wealthbuilding.com/what-are-smart-goals.html , I used your methods for activating the old brain by telling a dangerous story with a picture of danger in the first couple of paragraphs. Then, I used other photos such as the beautiful woman holding money and the creative art of the human mind.

I also tried to activate the mid brain and new brain by making time sensitive offers and “limited time only”. Under the picture of the man mountain climbing, you can see a yellow box with a “jump link” to the bottom of my page. My most wanted response for that page is for my reader to sign-up for my wealth builders club. So, I used your techniques of limited offers, exclusive, and instant.”

The major changes I made:
New color format. I decided to use a blue format to create more of a trusting look and feel
Pictures. I use pictures that have some sex appeal, food, and danger.
I tell more stories. I use story-telling to create images and get people engaged.
I use limited time, exclusive, and time sensitive appeal.
I create solid and practical value.

After reading your book and implemented your ideas, I’ve received extremely positive reviews that I’ve helped others increase their lives and that my website is fun.”

Here is one of his re-designed pages:

You can see Nick’s site at: http://www.creative-wealthbuilding.com/what-are-smart-goals.html. 

Thanks Nick for sending me your case study!

If you have read the book and applied some of the principles, send me your case study with before and after pages links or screenshots and a list of the changes you made.

Case Study: The Psych Files applies Neuro Web Design

A few months ago I did an interview for Michael Britt’s podcast called The Psych Files. Michael has a loyal following (there have been 10,000 downloads of this particular podcast). Michael was “taken” with my book and decided to apply some of the things he learned to make changes in his own website. 

Here’s part of his original website:
Michael wrote me an email that said:


Changes based on the recommendations in your book:

1) Added in user feedback (chapter 2: social validation)
2) added in data (Chapter 2: Added data: number of views on YouTube, Google search result info)
3) Reciprocity (chapter 3: “The Psych Files podcast offers…..completely free audio and web resources.”)
4) Emphasized scarcity (chapter 4: “The is the ONLY place on the web where you’ll find this”…)
5) Drew on the idea of fear of loss (chapter 9: “Don’t be worried about getting a low grade…”)
6) Added in a success stories (chapter 10: “I went back to school after 15 years, and my daughter…..”)

I also did these things:
1) Made it more clear what problem the user had that my product would solve (instead of emphasizing how great I thought the product was)
2) Created visuals that are a) amusing, b) reinforce what the product will do for the potential buyer.
3) Bolded the important words
4) Decreased the amount of text overall

And here’s the “after” web page:



You can see the web site at: http://www.thepsychfiles.com/brain-mnemonics-for-sale/.


Thanks Michael for sending me your case study!

Chase Makes A Miracle Happen With Persuasive Design Part II

In my last post I talked about the chase blueprint site (http://www.chaseblueprint.com/#/home) and asked readers to write in with their ideas about why this website is so persuasive. Here’s a summary of what you wrote in:

— The use of the word You frequently (activiates old brain)

— Using attractive people who are “like me” (principles of attractiveness and similarity)

— Use of stories

— Use of animation to grab attention

— Use of trigger words such as “free”

Here’s what I think Chase could be doing to be even more persuasive and engaging:

— The stories are good, but with the use of stories there is a lot of use of “I” rather than “you”. So Chase should consider interspersing the “I” with more “you”.

— Tell me how many people have signed up for blueprint. (Social Validation principle).

— For even more social validation, have more people telling stories rather than just the one couple.

— Using close-ups would be better at least some of the time, so that we can see the person’s face more clearly and closely.

Thanks to everyone who wrote comments and sent in emails!

Chase Makes a Miracle Happen With Persuasive Design: Part I

An impossible task: I don’t know about you, but these days I’m not used to thinking of a credit card company as “my friend” or “on my side”. And the last thing I’m interested in is getting another credit card. Then how is it that in less than 5 minutes Chase convinced me that I absolutely have to have their credit card, and not only that, that I will want to use it as much as possible rather than any other card I have?

Let’s hear from you: I’m actually not going to tell you how they did it —  yet! That’s why this blog is labelled as Part I. I thought it would be more fun if we have everyone go to this site: http://www.chaseblueprint.com/#/home, spend some time looking at all the features of the card, etc, and then come back here and leave a comment with all the effective persuasive design techniques you noticed that they have used. Or if you are more comfortable with just sending me an email, send your comments to weinschenk@gmail.com. (Those of you who have read my book Neuro Web Design: What makes them click? may have an advantage when it comes to coming up with a list of persuasive design ideas they incorporated, but I’m sure everyone will be able to come up with at least a few of the concepts they are using).

I’ll compile the ideas: I’ll wait a few days and see what everyone has to say and then I’ll write Part II and summarize what everyone found.

Trust Lesson #2: Building Trust Is Not Enough

I choose the vendor I trust and have a “habit” for: I saw the movie Julie and Julia and now am reading the book. I got inspired, therefore, to try making a souffle and a quiche. Except I don’t own a souffle dish or a quiche dish. So, time to do my part for the economy, and actually purchase some kitchen wares. I happened to be in a Williams Sonoma store and even looked at and picked up both a quiche and a souffle dish. But I didn’t purchase them. I was thinking about a news story I had read recently that Amazon is positioning itself to be the major retailer of everything. I’m an Amazon fan (I actually bought their stock when they first went public and then stupidly sold it about 3 months later!), so I decided I’d buy my souffle and quiche dishes online at Amazon.

Uh, oh, something goes wrong: I quickly found what I wanted and ordered with “one click”. Two days later they arrive — each broken into little pieces.  Next I go online to let them know and get a refund. You can’t talk to anyone when you have a problem at Amazon, and the refund process is NOT easy. I have to find the right form online (took several tries). I have to fill out the form correctly (several more tries). I have to print labels (they want the broken dishes back). I have to send the dishes back separately. One has to go back via UPS and the other through the US mail (why is this?!?).

Trust is gone: I am a loyal Amazon fan. I buy hundreds of dollars worth of merchandise from Amazon each year. But I can tell you I will not buy anything breakable from them again, and I will think twice about buying anything that may have to be returned. This experience has eroded my trust, and not because the dishes arrived broken, but because it is so hard to get things rectified if there is a problem. Not being able to talk to a person makes me feel like Amazon doesn’t care about my experience as a customer.

Building trust isn’t enough: It’s one thing to miss out on an opportunity to build trust with a new customer. But it’s even worse to erode trust with someone who was loyal. Pay attention to the customers you have now. Make sure you evaluate your website, not only in terms of building trust, but in terms of keeping trust.

The Secret Ingredient to Web Site Loyalty

Here’s the Answer: I’ll state right up front — The Secret Ingredient is …. FUN!

The Scenario: Recently I was researching a trip for my son. He’s in Cairo for a semester abroad, but rather than coming straight home from there for the Christmas holidays, he’s decided he wants to go to London for two weeks (ok, I can’t blame him). But he’s a poor college student, so he has to do this as cheaply as possible. I was on video chat with him, and we’re discussing possible dates, itineraries, etc. I had to be able to search all these different options quickly. First I used Expedia, and then I used Travelocity. They were so slow, and ponderous, and had numerous usability issues. Why is it so hard to choose one-way or multi-destination? Why are the date pickers so hard to use? I was getting more and more frustrated and then somehow (I don’t even remember how or why), I ended up at Kayak.com.

Is it Usability or is it Fun?: Now Kayak is much more USABLE than the other sites. And that was wonderful, but that’s not what made me stay at Kayak for the rest of the research. And that’s not what made me go to Kayak since then to look up all other kinds of travel. Kayak is FUN. If you don’t know Kayak, then go try it out right now and then come back and finish reading the blog. Really. Go now and then come back.

So What’s So Fun?: When you enter your search criteria into Kayak and press the Search button things happen… you don’t just go to a screen with a progress bar, or an hourglass, or a funny picture of William Shatner… you stay on the same screen, but there are things happening… there is some kind of word unscrambler that is scrolling through word combinations. I don’t even know what that thing is, but I swear I can feel excitement mounting as it is cycling through until a word or phrase appears. And the results! The results of your search, with cities, and prices starts populating right away. It starts at the bottom of the screen and works up. So first you see a bunch of flights for $775, and then the price dips and you see a bunch of entries scrolling by of $585, then $356, and WOW, it stops at $272… I WON! Now I’m not a gambler, I don’t play slot machines, or even the lottery, but I”m telling you, this gets me every time. I find this website fun. Instead of dreading checking out flights I look forward to it. After I find the flight I want I am just one click away from Expedia or Travelocity or whomever else I want to use to actually BUY the flight. It will come up immediately with my flight info right there and I can purchase right away. This is great.

Fun + Usable = Trust?: There’s another subtle psychological shift: I trust the info at this site. I used to go to Northwest or Travelocity or Priceline, or all of those, because I didn’t trust that I was getting ALL the flights. But because Kayak.com is EASY and it’s FUN… I trust it.

The secret ingredient: FUN.

Trust Issues — A Sure Way to Kill a Marketing Campaign


Today I received a Linked In message from someone I don’t know describing a free assessment tool for using social media to generate leads. The word FREE was used 3 times in all caps, so it caught my attention, of course, (FREE is a trigger word), and I clicked on the link to the web page. The page itself had some good persuasive design, but Trust alarm bells started ringing, and before long the entire interaction had gone down the drain.

Three critical Trust factors were violated in this interaction:

Trust Issue 1: Insincerity — The original linked in email started with: “I think you attended one of our free training classes on Generating Leads using LinkedIN and or Facebook in the past.“… I don’t remember attending any training classes on this topic, and the author even says “I think”… so it’s an amazing testament to the word FREE that I even went the next step and clicked on the link. But my Trust alarms were activated by that first sentence, and that colored the rest of my experience.

Trust Issue 2: Mispellings and grammatical errors — At the web page itself there was a grammatical error and a mispelled word. I know this sounds small, but these are Trust issues. I was already on alert because of the original email, and seeing these errors in the copy of the web page made me wonder how legitimate these people were. STILL the copy at the web page was persuasive and I was willing to fill out the form for the free assessment. Willing, but not able! Read on…

Trust Issue 3: Usability issues and errors — I tried to fill out the form 4 times! There were numerous unexplained errors… One of them said that Field #6 requires numbers… well, none of the fields are labelled as Field #6, but I counted and I think this was the phone number field… I did have a number in it… Another error was that there was a text box labelled “Additional Request”. I had no idea what to put in there, but I got an error message saying it was required! I tried 4 times to fill out the form, but kept getting errors. Now my trust had eroded down to zero. Not only will I not be getting my free assessment, or buying their service for $199 — I will have a hard time trusting the company, and I even have written this blog post, passing on my trust issues to others.

Lesson — Make sure you aren’t violating trust. Although each of these trust issues is small on its own, together they create a Trust 3-alarm fire that chases away potential customers.

5 Ideas — How To Use Brain Science To Create Persuasive Presentations

How many BORING presentations have you attended in your lifetime? If you are like most people the answer is “too many”! Recently I gave a talk on how to use brain science to create compelling and persuasive presentations. Here are 5 ideas from the talk:

1) Talk to the emotional brain with photos. Forget text bullet points on your slides. Those bullet points are your outline. Don’t bore your audience by showing them your outline! Use colorful photos to capture the attention of the emotional brain. But don’t overdo it. You don’t need a different photo every 10 seconds for every thought you have.
2) Tell stories. Our brain processes information best when it is in the form of a story. Use stories throughout your presentation. These can be true stories or allegorical stories that make a point. Stories make the information easier to understand and process, and they also get people’s attention. Everyone loves stories. Research shows that when you tell a story the brain is reacting as though you are the character in the story. You are, in essence, experiencing what the person in the story is experiencing.
3) Talk to the “old brain”. The old brain is the part of the brain that is most interested in survival. The old brain is all about ME ME ME ME . So make sure that you start your presentation with something that is interesting to the people in the audience. Tell them a story or make a point within the first minute of the talk that is about them, not about you. That will grab their attention and their old brain will say, “I’d better pay attention to this. It’s all about me”.
4) Look people in the eye. In order to be believable you’ve got to look people in the eye while you are talking. Pick out someone in the audience and look at them for about 5 seconds, then pick another person and look at them while you are talking for about 5 seconds, etc. Even if you are not looking directly at each person, just the fact that you are looking up and making eye contact with someone gives the (largely unconscious) message that you are telling the truth and you are reliable. Looking down at your notes all the time makes it seem that you are being shifty and not telling the truth.
5) Say what everyone else is doing. Make sure to use social validation during your presentation. Don’t say “Only 10% of the departments at our company are following this policy”. That tells everyone that hardly anyone else is doing this activity. The principle of social validation says that people tend to want to do what everyone else is doing. So try to word this as “There are now departments at our company who have tried this new policy and have had great success”.
I’ve got even more ideas, but I’ll save them for another post.
Let me know: What are your ideas of how to make a presentation persuasive and compelling?
Photo by: http://www.flickr.com/photos/scragz/