Author: Susan M. Weinschenk, PhD
Publisher: New Riders
Aimed at: Website owners, designers, developers
Pros: An interesting, thought provoking, read
Cons: Not at all practical
Reviewed by: Sue Gee
The subtitle of this book is "What makes them click?" but there no direct and simple answers are given. Instead we are treated to a great deal of recent research into several areas of psychology.
You may be wondering why I've listed the author's name as Susan M. Weinschenk, PhD - well that's the way it appears on the cover and so her credentials are perhaps an issue. As it unfolds this book cites a lot of academic books and papers which are duly listed in the 5-page bibliography at the end. That the author is a woman is in my opinion a salient factor. Perhaps she can be permitted the inclusion of photos of skimpily-clad models more readily than a male author.
Chapter 1:Designing websites for persuasion and the unconscious mind introduces the idea of three brains - old brain concerned with survival; mid brain where emotions are processed; and new brain for language processing, speech, music, thinking and planning - which is the part of the brain according to the author differentiates us from animals. The chapter concludes with the message that to make us click websites have to persuade us and to do this need to appeal to all three parts of our brains.
The next chapter is on the need people have to fit in or belong - social validation in the psychological jargon that this book uses. It refers to academic research into the "bystander effect" and looks at the way we respond to recommendations and the statistics websites present to tell us about other people's purchases.
Reciprocity and making concessions are discussed next and then comes a ploy that I know from personal experience works - scarcity. It seems I'm not the only one to respond positively when I find the product I'm considering purchasing is about to become unavailable. I also recognise the behavior discussed in Chapter 5 - "Given too many choices we freeze and then we don't choose at all".
Chapter 6 is about "speaking to the self-centred, unconscious mind" and its messages are fairly adequately covered by its section headings "Danger, Sex and Food" and "Don't let them get bored". The next chapter is about a more subtle trait - the human need to be consistent and how to exploit it to build commitment.
I've already mentioned the content of Chapter 8 - it is where we encounter the attractive looking models and its topic is "Using similarity, attractiveness and association" with the message that we are more likely to listen to and buy from someone who is like us and is perceived to be attractive. The following chapter covers how fear of losing is important in motivating behaviour.
The penultimate chapters is back to a very standard topic as indicated in its title: Chapter 10 Using pictures and stories - the best way to talk to our unconscious minds. But Chapter 11 - We're social animals - finding the next big thing by making it social, almost seems off topic. It points to the human need to communicate, talks about viral communication and the phenomenon of social networking sites, mentions Facebook and some recent research into the types of persuasion used in Facebook applications, and concludes, rather lamely in my opinion, "If you want to be the next big thing, figure out how to use a new technology in a social way".