What is Persuasion Archtecture?

The process we use to plan persuasive elements of a Web site is called persuasion architecture. It is the organization of the buying and selling processes married to the information flow.

The focus is persuading visitors to take action.

PA is nothing new. Brick-and-mortar retailers have incorporated it in their stores for decades. Milk in the back of the store, the aroma of bread baking, the layout of aisles, and the location of products on shelves are all planned to attract attention, gain interest, stimulate desire, and persuade you to navigate the store the way retailers want you to.

Applying the “AIDA” Test

AIDA stands for Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action. It’s one of the oldest and most durable cognitive models describing buying and selling because it helps marketers appeal to consumers’ emotional and social needs. Every successful professional sale incorporates these elements at every step; they drive the process of turning visitors into buyers.

Persuasion Architecture applies AIDA to every page on your website.

  • Does the page grab visitors’ attention?
  • Does the page stimulate their interest and reinforce they’re in the right place?
  • Does the page inspire the desire to take the action of clicking deeper toward a purchase?
  • Is how to take that action obvious and easy?


Three Questions

When we tried to define the word Conversion we talked about micro-conversions and the need for every page of your web site to have a specific, well defined goal. Persuasion Architecture takes that to the next step by asking three fundamental questions.

  1. WHO are we trying to persuade?
  2. WHAT action do we want them to take?
  3. HOW do we persuade them to take the action?

These three questions are used to create a decision tree based on personas or, at the very least, divide the logical arguments from the emotional ones. Different branches represent different outcomes, based on how customers might move through the site. The visitor can then be conducted through your web site via the path with which they are most comfortable.

Nothing is done by accident. Nothing is merely decorative. Everything that doesn’t enhance your ability to persuade is at best distracting and at worst harming your ability to persuade.


About a hundred years ago, world-famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright described Persuasion Architecture perfectly.

“A building should contain as few rooms as will meet the condition which give it rise and under which we live, and which the architect should strive continually to simplify; the ensemble of the rooms should then be carefully considered that comfort and utility may go hand in hand with beauty.”

BJ Fogg in his book, Persuasive Technology, says:

“The answer to the question – Is persuasion unethical? Is neither yes or no. It depends upon how persuasion is used…The designers intent, method of persuasion and outcomes help to determine the ethics of persuasive technology…If a human were using this strategy to persuade would it be ethical? We expect ethical persuasion to include elements of empathy and reciprocity but with interactive technology there is no emotional reciprocity.”

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