But I’d like to get you thinking about a different and much more powerful
metaphor, “Persuasive Architecture,” that marries all the bits and pieces to
the Big Picture. All you have to do is catch the bouquet!
Lots of things come to mind when I think of “architecture”:
design, intention, function, beauty, structure, movement. I think of how
a museum is very different to a fast food joint is very different to a house.
Architecture as a discipline is a merger of science and art, joining the
breadth of engineering and aesthetics with human use.1
The best constructions out there do more than just arrange space so you can
figure out where you can go; they are built to help you go where you
need to go – as that is understood both by you and the architect – in a
way that appeals and delights.
Let’s take a walk down History Lane. About a hundred years ago,
the architect Frank Lloyd Wright wrote:
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.2
It’s a cool article, especially if you replace “Web site” for “building,” “Web
page” for “room,” “call to action” for “door,” think of “nature” as
“functionality” and “materials” as the inherent character of the medium.
You get the idea.
Look also at the development of Landscape Architecture, particularly through
folks like Frederick Law Olmsted (best known for his role in shaping Central
Park in New York):3
Olmsted applied these principles of separation and subordination more
consistently than any other landscape architect of his era. Subordination was
accomplished in his parks where carefully constructed walks and paths would
flow through landscape with gentle grades and easy curves, thus requiring the
viewer's minimal attention to the process of movement. At the same time, many
of the structures that Olmsted incorporated into his parks merge with their
surroundings. Separation is accomplished in his park systems by designing
large parks that were meant for the enjoyment of the scenery. Smaller
recreational areas for other activities and where "park ways" handle the
movement of pedestrians and vehicular traffic offset these large parks.4
Even more explicitly, the purpose of this form of architecture was to create
space that shaped and guided the “user’s” experience.
Intention was integral to the design – when you stepped over here, you were
supposed to see this; when you moved further down that path, you were
presented with a secretive opening you simply couldn’t resist investigating.
To get visitors to take action online, you practice Architecture: construction as the
a conscious act; the creation of a unifying or coherent form or structure.
Information Architecture is definitely a piece of the puzzle, even if folks
have often used the term in a vague sort of way. The best definition
I’ve found comes from Louis Rosenfeld:
Information architecture involves the design of organization and navigation
systems to help people find and manage information more successfully.5
Information Architecture is all about helping folks find the information
they are looking for. It’s about how you optimize your site’s search
engine so visitors can find products, how you categorize your supplemental
navigation in ways that make sense to your visitors and reflect how they might
look for your stuff. It’s the rudiments of the Qualifying part of the
sales process. Actually, brilliant Information Architecture is like a
top-notch reference librarian.
But you don’t only want to help people find your stuff and make
it easy for them to interact with your site (the usability part of the
puzzle), you want them to take action. You want them to buy, or
subscribe, or qualify themselves as a lead. So you need to do more than
allow them to act; you have to persuade them!
And that’s where Persuasive Architecture comes in. It’s the
aesthetically appealing and functional structure you create to marry the
organization of the buying and selling processes with the organization of
information. It’s the only way your Web site is actively going to
influence, the only way you will pull (never push!) your visitors along the
paths they need to walk to accomplish their goals – and yours.
The dudes here at Future Now really like the building associations; me, I have
a fondness for green stuff. Either way, we’re very excited about this
unifying framework of Persuasive Architecture. So stay tuned … we’ve
only just begun! Check out Bryan Eisenberg's article this
1 With appreciation to Tom Grimes, one cosmic-thinking dude!
2 “In the Cause
of Architecture.” Frank Lloyd Wright. Architectural Record
. March, 1908. Reprinted in Frank Lloyd Wright, Collected
Writings. vol 1. pp 87-88.
3 Also Andrew Jackson Downing,
Calvert Vaux, Ebenezer Howard
Architecture Revealed!” John S. Rhodes.
You or Me: Theory versus Practice
Recently, I read an article1 that made one of my eyeballs start
This was the gist: people do business with people, so you want your site
to convey and build trust by revealing a lot more about the people behind your
business. You meet this need, in part, by putting pictures of your
employees on the site, displaying the scanned signature of the Head Honcho
somewhere, having your About Us sections include personal tid-bits about your
principals and staff, and offering Employee of the Month and Staff News
In short, you should beef up your “Me-Me” quotient. Folks
want this, and they look for it when they come to your site.
My reaction? I thought you’d never ask!
Remember, I think in terms of
principles, not hard-and-fast rules. There may, in fact, be a
business for which this me-stuff is the perfect strategy. It’s just not
most businesses. And it probably isn’t yours. It’s a nice
theory, and maybe it would be a nicer world if we valued “Who” a bit more, but
my experience suggests it’s not up there on the majority of your visitors’ Top
So how often are visitors really interested in the folks behind the
scenes? Do they really rank that information as central to
helping them solve their task-oriented missions? Do they go looking for
it in droves – or at least in numbers that might convince me there’s a
deep-seated, unmet need out there?
I looked at our Web logs for the past year. Five percent of our visitors
clicked through to the About Us page. Five percent clicked through to
our Bios page. Now, we’re a consulting company. We’re
selling US, our services, our way of thinking about Conversion Rate Marketing.
Folks are going to be working with us pretty closely … you’d think who
we are, as depicted on our Web site, might matter. It doesn’t seem to.
But we’re a smaller operation than many. So I rang up my totally
cool buddy, Ethan Giffan, who works with online recruiting. Jobs!
Very people oriented!
“Hey, dude. You get lots and lots of traffic on your Web site.
many of those folks click through to your About Us Web page?”
I hear Ethan shuffling some papers and then his reply, “Five percent.”
“Really?” I’m actually surprised. “Us too.
That’s interesting. So how many people click through to
learn about the recruiters … the divisions that might actually hire them?”
Ethan doesn’t even pause. “One point four three percent.”
“Right,” I scratch my head. “So what about those four
communities you have, full of lots of resources, lots more targeted
information. What sort of traffic do they get?”
“All the communities together get eight percent of our traffic.”
Folks who go to Ethan seem to be more interested in jobs than who’s in Ethan’s
company. And the ones who come to us seem more interested in their
bottom lines. Over ninety percent of them are Desperately Not Seeking
This makes sense if you consider their primary motivation is, after all, WIIFM.
personality types? Your Expressive visitors (the ones who are most
relationship-oriented) might find some value in learning personal details
about the people in your business, but they are going to be far better
persuaded to make a purchase by customer testimonials. Amiables are less
likely to be interested in your personnel parade – they are more activity
focused. Your Assertives will ignore it as extraneous noise. And
your Analyticals? Well, they’re the tough crowd when it comes to
touchy-feely things, because they will find it little more than posturing
fluff. Truth is, depending on how you use this stuff, it can actually
damage your credibility with Analyticals!
You best demonstrate your commitment to your customers and inspire confidence
and trust by always being relevant. Your customers are going to find
“you”-oriented information much more relevant and persuasive than
“me”-oriented information. We’ve found time and again that when companies
focus on the customer rather than showcasing themselves, conversion rates
Am I saying “Do away with it all”? Nah, not me. Five
percent is still five percent. We’ll be hanging on to our About Us
and Bios pages. However, we do plan on giving Employee of the Month a
P.S. I’d love to know your figures for traffic to pages that feature
company-related, about-us type people information.
Shoot me an e!
P.P.S. I’d caution against displaying any official signature on your Web
site. You never know to what uses it could be put!
1 “Back to Me: Why You Should Talk About Yourself.”
Claudia Temple. MarketingProfs.