Want to Increase Conversion? Avoid the Working Brain

your-website-made-my-head-hOur brain has two states … a lazy one and a working one, as I like to call them (both states are always working, just one is much lazier). Daniel Kahneman referred to them as “System 1 and System 2″ in his book “Thinking, Fast and Slow.”

From the outside, it might not seem like a big deal to swap between “lazy” mode and “working” mode. Though it prefers the “lazy” mode due to the reduction of cognitive strain, our brain does it all day long as it encounters situations requiring concentration or a choice.

The brain typically switches to working mode when following complex instructions, at times when there is uncertainty, or when it senses there might be a problem. Given cognitive strain is not something we want for a target audience when we’re trying to “convert” them into customers (or get someone to take another action), it’s the lazy mode that UX designers want to keep the brain in when putting together a website that sells a product/service or an application where we are aiming for a short learning curve.

We in the UX design world tap into as many “cognitive physiological items” (things that are an integral part of our subconscious) that resonate with the customer base we are design for, further reducing the number of times our customers engage the “working” brain.

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When the brain swaps over to the “working” mode, people may become more suspicious or they may be more inclined to explore more options before making a decision. If you’re trying to sell a person on your products, this is obviously problematic as this exploration of many other options can mean a delayed decision, or worse yet, wandering off to a competitor’s site.

We also start to see a lack of confidence, which can lead to a lack of trust.

Bottom line: You want a relaxed audience.

To get there, follow these tips:

  • Remove redundant links whose only purpose is to make it feel like you are providing more choices to your customers.
  • Use common and familiar terms in your navigation. I’m all for creativity – just not in your navigation. Prior to BabyLegs’ sale to United Legwear, we redesigned a midmarket site for the company; navigational issues were a big part of the problem BabyLegs had experienced. Fixing those issues not only increased conversion significantly, it also turned items that previously hadn’t sold well into top sellers.
  • Use design principles such as proximity, similarity and contrast to drive and focus attention (also referred to as the “gestalt principles”).

Remember, lazy brains equal cooperative converting customers.

Image credit: Caillean via Flickr

Written by Charlie Claxton, Chief Strategist at UpTop

As the leader of UpTops’ creative strategy, Charlie’s ability to define, design and deliver stellar interactive experiences for end-user consumer claxton-vproducts and corporate audiences has brought him opportunities to lead successful design efforts for companies such as Expedia, Amazon, Boeing, T-Mobile and Microsoft.

The Puget Sound Business Journal honored Charlie as one of Seattle’s 2012 “40 Under 40,” recognizing individuals “under the age of 40 who [are] center stage in our business community, working hard to drive the economy and demonstrating dynamic leadership.”

Charlie has a master’s degree in technical communication from the University of Washington School of Engineering and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism. Charlie is also an instructor in the Master’s program for the University of Washington’s Human Centered Design and Engineering program and an advisor in the funded software security firm SourceClear.

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