Web Design Psychology – Get Into Your Buyer’s Brain and Drive Conversions

The following is a recording and transcript of a webinar recorded in March of 2022.

Patrick Rauland: Hello, hello, hello, everyone. My name is Patrick Rauland, and I am the Brand Manager here at Paid Memberships Pro. I run a lot of the marketing stuff with my fantastic team. We are all very excited for today’s webinar, Leverage Design Psychology to Get into Your Buyer’s Brain and Drive Conversions, so we’re very much looking forward to this. I’m going to introduce the speaker here in just a second.

I do want to go over a couple rules, points of information that you should just be aware of. Number one, we get asked this, every webinar since the beginning of time has always been asked, “Is this being recorded?” The answer is, yes, it is being recorded, I will go ahead and put this little sticker on the bottom. It’s going to be on the Paid Memberships Pro website. We have a little URL. Some of you may be watching it there right now. You can go there, it’ll be recorded there pretty quickly. As well as, and there’s a different one here, Ross will also have some notes on this webinar on his site.

You can go to one or both of these sites for the notes/recording of this webinar. Yes, everything’s being recorded, and you should find all the information at one of those two links. If you’re on the mailing list, on our mailing list, and you got today’s webinar reminder, you will also get a reminder when we– I like to go back over the webinars and write down my own notes and break down the topic a little bit more, so we’ll also add a little bit more content to that page. You should be getting that if you got today’s webinar reminder.

There will be questions at the end. I’m a big fan of questions. If you have questions while you’re watching this, please– If your questions pop into your head, please ask them to us, because we hold them to until the very end. Go ahead and ask them immediately. If you have a better question later, I might see two near duplicates and throw out the first one, and take the second one. Just ask questions when you have them. Otherwise, I’m the type of person where when I’m watching a talk, I will, “I have a great question, I’ll save it to the end.”

Always gone. 100% of the time it is gone by the end of the webinar, so please just ask them. That way, we have a nice backlog of questions to get through. I think that’s also where you get a lot of value is– I think Ross is going to cover a lot of really awesome stuff today. Sometimes questions can be a little bit more practical about a specific use case. I just want to highlight one more thing before we get going here just to set the context of this webinar. I think almost everyone who’s watching this probably wants to make more money with their membership site.

That’s probably what you’re here to do, is my guess. Maybe some of you, maybe you’re friends with my mom on Facebook or something like that, but I’m guessing most of you want to make more money in your membership sites. There’s four main ways to make money online. Get more visitors. Get more visitors to purchase. Get more of them to purchase more, like a higher dollar value on your sites. Or get repeat customers.

That’s the four ways just to make money online. Most marketing advice always focuses on getting more visitors. That’s great. Getting more visitors, usually a good way to increase revenue. The other one that no one spends enough time talking about is getting more visitors to purchase to become paid customers. That’s what we’re going to talk about in today’s webinar, I think. I’ve seen some of the slides. That’s what I think we’re going to talk about.

I’m gonna go ahead and introduce Ross Johnson. He has been designing websites professionally for over 15 years. He brings a unique perspective to design, shaped by a lifelong love of the fine arts and his education in technology, business, and social science. He also has a long history with the web design community. He’s co-founded a bunch of different events, Refresh Detroit, WP Ann Arbor, and LA2M. Without further ado, please everyone, welcome Ross Johnson. Take it away.

Ross Johnson: Thank you, Patrick. Thank you, everybody. I really appreciate everybody being here. I’m going to go ahead and share my screen. All right. I’m just going to dive right in. Today, we’re going to be talking about leveraging design psychology to get into your buyers brains and drive more conversions. I want to start off with a little story. A couple years back, a client came to us. Specifically, they were in the robotic process automation industry. This is a new form of artificial intelligence and machine learning where you can actually create these little software bots.

They’re technically just software programs. They run on servers that can do– They can automate all these little menial tasks like going through resumes for job applications and looking for flags to, say, move these ones forward and reject these ones, send out a rejection notice, or potentially scanning emails for invoices and then automatically entering these into your accounting system. This really a powerful new technology and capability that’s been evolving over the last few years, is what this client did. Now, they work primarily for large multinational corporate clients.

In order to really take advantage of this, you need to be an enterprise level. It’s moving a little bit more downstream now, but previously you wanted to be a big company to take advantage of this because you’re only going to gain so much freeing up one person. What they’re looking to do is trying to free up an entire team that was previously going in and doing all this manual things, manual data entry, day to day. They came to us, and their website, I would say, here’s a rough approximation of what it was originally, was perfectly usable, it was aesthetically pleasing, there was really nothing wrong with it.

When we looked at it, it seemed fine, it seemed great, but what they told us is that they were getting no leads. No leads at all. No activity. They could see people were coming to it, they’d spend time on it. It seemed like generally the right people, but it just never resulted in any qualified leads, not even one. They asked what we recommend that we do, and we said, “We need to start from scratch, and focus on leveraging design psychology.” A big part of this, as you’ll see, is this discovery phase where you’re spending a lot of time researching and learning more about your target audience.

After doing the research and spending time researching their audience, we discovered the problem. We figured out why even though the right people were getting on the site, they never seemed to actually take the next step and turn into a conversion and turn into a lead. The reason was their current messaging, the messaging when we started engaging, was focused on what is robotic process automation? What are the benefits of robotic process automation? How can you use robotic process automation in your business? These are all things really selling the idea of robotic process automation.

The problem was, is the prospects were already bought into this idea of robotic process automation. A lot of times they had been mandated, you need to bring this to our company, you need to make this successful. It wasn’t a choice, they weren’t landing there trying to decide, “Do I want to use this or not?” They knew that they wanted to move forward. They knew that they had to move forward. The issue was what they were looking for is not why RPA, but why our client. Why you? Why should we pick you to work with? More specifically more deep down, what they wanted to know was, will you save me?

See, the problem that they’re running into on an individual and emotional level was they felt way over their head, they felt like they were drowning. Here’s this big new technology and there’s all these different platforms that you could use. It’s not something that they could implement themselves, their IT team was overloaded. They didn’t know anything about it, but they didn’t know it was important. In fact, their bosses were saying, “This is going to be an important part of the company’s success moving forward. We know our competitors are doing it. It’s going to be a big part of your career moving forward.”

They needed someone to save them. That’s what they were looking for on the site. We shifted the messaging and the design to focus more in the structure of the site, both the pages and the site itself. To focus more on how they could help at any stage of adoption. Are you in early stage, meaning you haven’t done it yet, you just know that you need to? Are you middle stage, where you’ve maybe run a few RPA programs but they didn’t quite turn out? Or you late stage? You’ve had some successes, but now you need to scale it from one location across the entire enterprise.

We also included messaging on guidance on how to be successful, case studies and previous outcomes proving that we have saved people before, and then education on implementing RPA programs. After this, you can see the redesign here where we focused a bit more on what stage of the journey they’re on, and calling out the various different ways that they can engage in RPA program. They went from zero leads to generating some of the biggest net new leads in company history, so leads that haven’t contacted them through some of their partners.

This is a really good example of using design psychology. By getting deep into their prospect’s brain, we understood where the disconnect was, and how we can structure the messaging the design the content, the key pages so that it resonated with their target audience, so that it hit all the notes that target audience was looking for that got them excited, so that we can communicate that this is this company, this is the group of people that’s going to save you, and encourage them to move forward.

Today what we’re going to be talking about is the five steps that we take 3.7 Designs, the agency I’m from, to get deep into our buyers brains and create conversion-focused websites and web pages. This could be a landing page, it could be overall site. Really the concepts apply universally. Those steps are doing what we call a saturation dive, which is basically diving deep into your audience’s psyche to better understand them. You’ve gotten through this saturation dive into an actionable, what we call a buyer model, which we’ll discuss a little bit further.

Now the insights that you’ve gained and distilled in those first two steps are going to lead you to identifying what’s the correct messages, what do we need to tell people, and what should the tone be. Then you can figure out what the structure of your key pages are, how do we structure and build these and design these so that they’re going to walk people through their buyers’ journey and get them to convert at a higher rate? Then finally, what are the calls to action? When we’re going to ask somebody to do something, what do we want to ask them to do, and how do we make sure that, again can we structure those so that it matches both their emotional thoughts and their logical thoughts, and encourages them to move forward.

Let’s dive right in and talk a little bit first about the saturation dive. Before I get into the nitty-gritty of how exactly we go about doing the saturation dive, I’m going to talk a little bit more about how you should be thinking about and approaching your website. If you have a membership site and you’re trying to get more people to sign up for the membership, then there’s probably a few different reasons why your website exists. In fact, this is pretty universal for all websites. Typically, there are business objectives. These are the reasons your website exists overall, what you want to get out of it.

Which might be more subscriptions, more customers. In your case, of your membership site. In our client’s case, they wanted more leads, they wanted more business. Even if you think about some social goodwill websites, you want maybe people to buy in and believe, and take action, and volunteer. There’s always these business objectives, whether it’s a business or not, the reasons why your website exists.

There’s also user needs. These are the reasons that somebody actually visits your site. Most of the time, people aren’t doing randomly. There’s something they want to get out of it. We’re all busy, there’s all things that we want to do throughout our day and things we’re trying to accomplish. There is a reason that people are landing your site, even if it’s entertainment. Although in this case, there’s probably some bigger problem they’re trying to solve.

What you want to try and do throughout this process is identify what we call the critical overlap. This is the places where your business objectives overlap with the user’s needs. What’s the situation where you both win? If you can prioritize those things, your website tends to be a bit more effective. To go into it a little bit deeper, what we typically see on a lot of websites is that if you split this up into two groups, there’s what you want, the reasons why your website exists. There’s what your users want, which is the reason somebody visits your site.

What we often see is that there’s a over-prioritization of what we want. The things that we want out of the site, these are the things that we’re trying to really focus in being on with every single page. What do we want to tell people? What pages do we want? What imagery do we want to use? It’s a lot of very self-focused, what does the business want? Then an under-prioritization of what users want. All the focus is on what we want and not enough on what users want. When in reality, it should probably be closer to this.

Because ultimately, the users, the people coming to your site, your target audience, they’re the ones who are going to decide whether your site’s successful or not. They can leave at any moment, there’s no lack of things for them to do. They’re probably super busy. There’s other sites, there’s competitors. Really, we need to prioritize what they want, their needs, their interests, what they’re trying to get out of it, and de-prioritize what we want a little bit. If you find that overlap, it’s really not going to feel like much of a de-prioritization because when the users win, you win.

The other aspect, in a similar vein, that I see misconceptions around is this idea of logic and emotion. When we make big decisions which could mean signing up for a membership site, choosing a new program, filling out a lead form, requesting consultation, purchasing a big product, we tend to think that that decision is primarily done by by logic. We’re live logical beings, we have conscious thoughts. We think things through clearly. We have rational thought. We weigh our options, we make comparisons, that sort of thing. Emotion, sure, maybe in some circumstances it’s an influence in the decision.

In reality, we might think it looks like this, logic’s very prioritized, emotion plays a small role. It’s actually the opposite. We are very emotional beings. We actually make decisions based on emotion first and then later justify it using logic. There’s a big portion of our brain, the limbic system and the reptilian part of our brain. That is the most subconscious portion of our brain and it still drives a lot, if not most of our behaviors, which we then use logic to justify later, even though we’ve already made that decision based on emotion.

If you think back to the last really big decision you made, maybe you bought a house, maybe you decided to start a new relationship, leave a job, join a new job, buy a big-ticket item. If you think about really what ultimately made this decision, it was probably a gut feeling, it felt right. It feels like this is the right direction. Then later you probably justified it with logic and all these different things, but really it’s the emotion that was driving that behavior.

There’s a really famous study that really demonstrated and proved this where there’s some people who had a very specific type of brain damage that essentially caused it. They couldn’t feel emotion. All their thought processes were exactly the same, other than the fact that they no longer had the capacity to feel emotion. What they found is these people couldn’t even make the most basic of decisions.

What cereal do you want to eat in the morning? They couldn’t make that decision, because even what cereal you want in the morning, what should I have for breakfast, ultimately, there’s an element of emotional decision there that you then use logic later to justify. What it comes down to is that decisions are made primarily by emotion, and later justified by logic. You need to understand the deep underlying motivations that your target audience is going through, those emotional motivators that’s causing them to do something to land on your site, to consider spending money on your membership site.

Then what logical justifications are they looking for in order for them to say, “Yes, this was the right decision.” In order to maximize the success of your website, if you’re designing your site, or have designed your site without this information, you’re simply guessing, and you’re not going to see the full possible results. You really need to understand these two pieces in order for any of the other things we talked about in this webinar to work.

Audience discovery. How do you figure this out? Ultimately comes down to doing research. The first few times you do this, it’s probably not gonna be fun, until you really start teasing out some insights and then you’ll be so excited about the possibility, the small tweaks you can make to your site, to your messaging, to your pages in order to make them more effective, because you’ll become very clear very quickly where you’ve got some disconnect. You need to do research. You need to find out as much about your target audience as possible.

What I recommend is collect as many data points as possible, and volume is key. Trying to look at a variety of different places to collect information, to validate information against each other, is really, really valuable, because if you only go down one avenue, there’s a chance that you might be pushed in the wrong direction because you keep hearing the same thing over and over again. It seems really important, but it turns out you just talked to two or three people who had the same similar experience.

Where are you going to get this information? There’s a variety of different places and ways you can do it. Obviously, talking to your existing customers is huge. If you can incentivize your existing customers to talk to you so you can better understand their thought process, their motivations, what they were going through, and we’re going to go through some of those questions that you’re looking to answer in the next slide, that can be really huge. Also just talking to people who fit your target demographic, or even talking to people who didn’t purchase.

Sometimes you can get more out of that than talking to the people who did purchase. Where was there a disconnect? Why weren’t you motivated to purchase? You could also potentially talk to leadership. If there’s somebody higher up than you depending on your role in this whole thing. Maybe you’re a designer-developer yourself doing client services, you could talk to leadership, they might have some insight into these things. Talking to salespeople. Anybody who’s involved in sales is having conversations, answering pre-sales questions, or having direct conversations with people who are interested in buying but not buying yet.

Customer Support is a huge one. A lot of times, if there’s something missing or not quite right, that will come across as a customer support question. You can see where those things are. Obviously, website analytics. There’s some split between correlation and causality, but it doesn’t hurt to see the patterns. What pages are people spending most time on? What are they searching for on your site, if they’re using a website search? Those things. What pages are landing on? Then looking at competitor’s websites. Maybe they’ve done this research, and you can pull out some patterns and see what are they focusing on.

Then if you’re lucky enough that your target audience is on social media and easy to find, you can actually go in and just pay attention to the conversations they’re having. That can be a huge source of valuable information. While you’re doing this research, there’s a handful of questions that you’re really trying to look for answers for. All these different data points distill down to trying to better understand how do they realize there’s a problem. One day, everything is perfectly fine, they’re waking up, they don’t feel like they don’t need to do anything.

The next day they wake up and say, “I need to do something about this. This needs to change.” Understanding that trigger can be really important. What emotions are they feeling throughout the process? Because you’re going to approach it very differently if somebody’s really excited at this idea of something new, they have a lot of energy around it. Versus if they’re really scared or fear-driven. The whole approach is going to be slightly different. Understanding those emotions is really important.

What are they doing from realization to purchase? We talked about that trigger. What happens between that trigger and ultimately making a decision? We call this the buyer’s journey. What journey do they go through? What steps do they go through to figure out what’s the best solution for them, both in terms of overall approach? What type of solution? Maybe they’re signing up for a membership site but maybe they’re buying a book, or maybe they’re hiring a coach, or something like that.

Understanding that, you’ll realize or get a better sense of what are the points that they’re going to hit your website, which is one of the issues that we ran into with our client was they were really targeting really early in the buyer’s journey when in reality, people were arriving on the site much later. Understanding what are they actually trying to accomplish. We’ll get into this a bit more. This is getting, again, deep down into the motivations, the deep motivators that are driving them forward. Then more surface level, what questions are they trying to answer?

They’re probably trying to figure some things out before they decide if they’re going to purchase or not. What objections do they have that might hold them back? What factors influence their decisions? What are the criteria that make a big difference? What’s deep down motivating them? What are they thinking throughout the process, and why is this important to them? Trying to create a complete understanding of their thought process, both on a surface logical level, but also the emotional drivers down below. Once you’ve done your research and your discovery, you’re going to create what’s called a buyer model. We call this buyer modeling.

One of the things you’ll find very quickly is you’ve gone through– Maybe you’ve talked to three to five people, maybe you’ve looked at your competitors’ websites, taken notes, you’ve looked at what’s their analytics, you’ve searched on social, and it’s going to create this huge wealth of notes. You’re going to have tons of information, and it’s very hard to act on. This is where the buyer models come in. Typically, you might be familiar with the idea of a buyer persona. If you’re not, I’ll explain it real quick.

Basically, the idea of a buyer persona is it’s a fictional representation of one of your core target audience segments. You take your core target audience segment, maybe it’s students age 24 to 30, and you create a fictional representation to them, this is Sam Green, and here’s her circumstances, you give her a name, that sort of thing. Those are fine. The issue that we’ve always had with buyer persona is they tend to be very focused on demographics, which might not be all that important, like, what’s their age? Where do they live? What’s their family? What are they interested in?

Those things typically don’t matter that much compared to psychographics, which is, what are they thinking? What pain points do they have? What’s motivating them? That sort of thing. A buyer model is the same idea, you’re creating a fictional person, but you’re focusing a lot more on different things. Really, what we do with the buyer model is we first look at what emotions are driving people. What are they feeling? There’s a common set of emotions that all humans feel, your common range. Then, what are those motivators? What are these deep emotional motivators? We know maybe they’re feeling scared, but what are they scared of? Again, a deep emotional level.

Then, we surface on more of the actual practical things that are happening, trying to understand what are they doing throughout the process? What are they thinking? What questions do they have? What objections do they have? Then finally, we do layer on personality and story because it makes it much easier to think of them as a real person. When you’re making decisions or trying to make a decision, as far as how do I structure something, what do I call something, what should I say here, it’s much easier to reflect back and say, “What would Sam feel about this? What does Sam want to know at this stage.”

Versus something more abstract, or the worst-case scenario you’re thinking about, “What would I want to see here?” Which is never accurate, because you’re never the target audience. You know too much. Ultimately, it’s a framework for synthesis. It’s a way to take all that data and just put it into a structure format so that you can very easily identify, what do I need to do to my site in order to make it more effective?

Some of the things that we’ll do in our buyer models– I’ll have a link at the end where you can actually download our workbook to go through and do this on your own sites. You can use the exact deck that we use at the agency to go through and fill out this information. Some of the things we do, one, is create jobs to be done statement. The idea with a job to be done statement is really just distilling down the surface-level thing that we’re trying to accomplish and understand what’s the deep, root, emotional motivator that lies beneath it.

Really, the easiest way to get to this is to figure out what is that top-level issue, like, “I need a new car. I’m trying to find a new car.” Keep asking, “Why is that important?” You can even do this if you’re interviewing people. You’ll say, “What were you trying to accomplish?” When they say, “I just needed a new car,” you can say, “Why was that important?” You continue to ask why was that important, it’s called the five whys, until you get down to that deep emotional motivator.

In this example, I need a new car, if we were to do that, we might learn that the old car was unreliable, and that was important because this person was taking the kids to daycare, and had to go to work every day. Then, why was that important? Safety is important. Why is safety important? I’m trying to keep my kid safe. Why do you want to keep your kids safe? It’s like, “I want to be a good parent.” We can see, buying a car which seems potentially like this mundane thing, in this situation, really the deep motivator, the deep underlying motivator could be being a better parent.

The next thing we try and figure out is understanding buyer’s journey. I talked about this earlier, but at some point there’s a trigger happens and all of a sudden people realize they need to do something, and there’s all these stages they go through in trying to determine what they should do in order to solve this problem that has occurred. Including, at some stage they know that they have a problem, they don’t know all the different ways to solve it, and then they move into a stage where they figure out, “This is the way I’m going to solve it. I’m going to sign up for a course, I’m going to sign up for a membership site, I’m going to hire a coach,” that sort of thing.

Then maybe they’re evaluating the different options, and then ultimately they purchase. This can happen really quickly in a matter of minutes or it can happen over months or years. Understanding that journey is going to help you make better decisions. Then we create what’s called an empathy map. This is really, again, trying to understand what feelings they’re having and what they’re going through. There’s a common set of emotional motivators that we’ll look through and see, which of these motivators is motivating this person?

For example, succeeding in life, feeling secure, having confidence in the future. Trying to understand, what are their anxieties? What are they worried about throughout the process? What logical thoughts are they having? How are they feeling throughout the process? This becomes really important when it comes to actually designing the key pages on your site. Then, to justify the logic portion of it or address the logic portion of it, then we look at the logic map, where we’re just trying to flesh out some of these key logical points so we can help them justify the feelings that they’re having.

This feels like the right decision, but they’re going to be looking for logical reasons to justify it. We want to give those to them so that they’re spending less mental effort trying to come up with them on their own, or worst case, they can’t come up with any, and then that might shift their direction. We’ll look at things like, what do they want to know when they’re landing on your site? This could be about your offering. Specifically, what’s included? How will this benefit me? How much does it cost? They might want to know about your company. They want to know how long you’ve been around. How many people are there? How large is it?

Maybe about logistics or their refund periods. What happens if I’m not happy? What happens if I have trouble? What’s the process like? How long does it take? Those sort of things. It’s important to flush all these things out if you don’t want anybody to have an unleft question, that can be a reason that someone doesn’t move forward. You also want to know what alternative options they have. If they don’t go with you, what might else they go with? This could be direct competitors or it could be indirect competitors. The information that you have in your membership site, maybe they could get through YouTube for free.

Maybe they could read a book, or maybe they could hire a coach, that sort of thing. Then understanding what’s the decision criteria, and then pulling all that out of the research that you’ve done, documenting the common objections so you can address those before it comes time to convert. Then, how does your product or service uniquely and best solve their problems? This is a place where the job to be done statement, and understanding their emotional motivations is really important because you are going to approach this differently, if you classify the problem is, “I need a new car,” compared to the problem is, “I want to be a better parent.”

The whole approach is going to be completely different. Not that everything’s going to be unrelated to purchasing the cars, but just the approach of how you talk about it, the overall look and feel, how everything’s structured, is going to be very different. Once you’ve done those things, you’ll have a better opportunity to condense all of this and understand how you’re going to tell them and show them how your product or service uniquely and best solves their problem.

Once you’ve done all this, you now have maybe three to four buyer models that give you a really clear representation of who’s coming to your site, what they’re looking for, what they’re feeling, what’s motivating them, what do they want to know, what else are they considering, what objections do they have, how are they going to make a decision, and how you think you can best solve their problem.

From this, it’s time to start thinking about, what do we need to tell them? What blocks of content do we need to have? What do we need to address? What should the tone be? The tone being both the written tone, so messaging tone, but also the tone of the design itself. They both say something, they both have a tone. It could be very exciting and bold. It could be very understated. It could be very casual. It could be very formal. These are the things you’re trying to figure out. Both, what are we trying to say, and what’s the tone of what we’re saying.

One way we’d like to do this is using what’s called the StoryBrand Framework. When it comes to trying to understand what should the narrative be of your site, what’s the story that you’re trying to walk people through, there’s this great set of books and a whole framework called StoryBrand. You can look online. I highly recommend it. It’s a cheap, easy read. Basically, the concept here is that humans universally, innately understand this story of the hero’s journey. You see this in all throughout history and pop culture. Star Wars is based on the hero’s journey.

It’s basically this framework where there is a hero who’s encountering a problem, who meets a guide that tells them the plan, and calls them into action that results in their success and helps them avoid failure. Now, in this story, your target audience is the hero. They’re encountering a problem, which is the reason that they’re considering purchasing whatever it is you have. Then they meet a guide, who is you. You give them a plan and call them to action that results in success and helps them avoid failure. This might look like in practicality, we’ll talk back about original client.

A chief technology officer is lost and overwhelmed trying to implement an intelligent automation platform. Here’s the hero who has a problem. He meets artificial intelligent partners who give him the knowledge plan and guidance he needs to be successful. He has what he needs to get buy-in from former leadership and his team resulting in a successful implementation, which lowers costs and improves employee morale. He avoids costly mishaps which could negatively impact his career and feelings of self-worth. It’s just trying to understand what is the story that this person is going on, and then how can we play a part.

We can structure our messaging around this idea that we need to be the partner who’s going to give them the knowledge plan and guidance to be successful. We can talk about that, about how we’re going to help him overcome these hurdles that we understand he has, and how this is going to help him avoid that emotional pain that he might feel, that we know he’s feeling, of having a negative impact on his career and feelings of self-worth.

Now, a couple of exercises you’re going to want to do as well that’s maybe getting to be a little bit more practical, think about if a website visitor landed on your site and only remember three things after visiting your site, what would those be? We have a very limited set of attention and memory. People aren’t going to remember every aspect of whatever it is you do. What are the three most important things? This is just a way to prioritize what’s most important we want to tell them, or most important that they want to know about.

Then going back and through all your buyer models and cataloging, categorizing, and prioritizing all the questions and objections. You’re going to come back with a whole list of questions and objections. These are all things that need to be spoken to on the website. It’s important to group them, put them all in one place, and then prioritize them. What’s your most important, which seem to come up most often, and which seem like were the biggest influencers, on their behavior decisions?

Then you need to think a little bit about what makes you radically different from your competitors. This is a huge portion of the logic piece. People want to feel like they made the right decision, especially when they’re considering other options. You need to tell them why. Calling out the three radical differentiators between you and your competitors is going to help them do that. This is a place we’re going to be really honest with yourself, what makes us really different. If you can’t think of anything, then that’s something you need to work on.

I will say, one thing about this is you don’t necessarily have to be significantly different if you just talk about it better and more often. You got to pick the three things that you think make the most different. From here, you need to think a bit more about tone. Tone, again, is more about the voice. In the wording in the messaging, what tone do you have there, but also the look and feel. I’ll go back to that earlier slide where I talked about what’s more important, what you want versus what your user wants. This is another place where you want to prioritize your target audience a bit more than yourself.

Essentially, this is a branding exercise where you’re trying to figure out what personality are we trying to convey? It’s very easy in this to fall into the trap of saying what sort of brand do we want to be? Ultimately, what you’re looking for is identifying what brand or company or website is our target audience looking for? Because what you want it to do is for them to land on the site, and the tone of the design, the look and feel and the wording and the messaging, all of it adds up together where they say, “This is exactly what I was looking for. I just get the sense this just really feels right.” Again, that feeling, that emotional sense.

In this exercise, you can go through here and look at the two words that are nearly opposing characteristics, conservative, progressive. Identify, should the website and the tone feel more progressive or conservative to what extent. One important caveat, I’ll say here, to add on to this is that you don’t have to be a designer or a copywriter for any of this section. You can hire a designer, you can hire a copywriter. I’m not a great copywriter. I’m a designer by trade. Having this information is going to make them much more successful.

You can hand this off to your copywriter, or your designer, and they can see and interpret, and say, “We’re going for a progressive look and feel or we’re going for a progressive voice.” Go through here, and you pick your numbers. They’re looking for a progressive company. They want something that’s pretty modern. They’re going to resonate better with something that’s a little more quirky or maybe they want something that’s more friendly, or corporate. You go through each of these. It’s a place to identify what you’re going for.

It’s also a really good place to react to content and design that’s created later. You can look at it and say, “How does this line up to what we were looking for?” Again, the idea is that when people land here, it should resonate with them emotionally. It should feel right. It’s going to be less about the logic, and it’s going to be more about that feeling. Once you have all those things done, now you can start thinking about the strategy of your key pages. If you ever have been at all involved in any web design or managing website at some point, you know we’re going to have a homepage, what goes on it? What order?

How do I structure this in a way that it’s going to be successful, that’s going to get people to do what I want them to do? That’s what we’re talking about here. We’re trying to get away from what does it look like and think more about how do we approach these key pages? What we do at the agency at 3.7 Designs, is we go back to our buyer models, and for each of those, we look at these key things. What are their top tasks at each stage of the buyer’s journey? Awareness, when they know that they have a problem, but don’t know how to solve it.

If they land on, to say, what are they trying to accomplish? What’s that main task they’re trying to do? Consideration. What are they trying to do there when they’re trying to decide what vendor to go with or maybe to create a long list of options? Then when they’re trying to make that final decision, what are they coming to the site to do? Based on that, that’s going to tell you what the top pages and sections of the site are. These are places where you’re going to want to put more effort into, especially at first, and then what conversion points are there for each of these?

Ideally, you’re going to have a conversion point for each stage in the funnel. How are you going to try and ask them to convert at that stage? You can also at this stage start thinking about persuasive design patterns. There’s these common patterns that human’s pretty universally react to because they all tie back to fight or flight and these innate reptilian evolutionary characteristics of us. As you’ve gone through this process, there’s going to be certain ones out of the 60-plus that there are, that seemed like they’re going to be little bit more effective.

You can pull them out here and say, “This is a place we can tell that we were going to need to use some authority here or some social proof.” Then putting together an ideal user flow. Based on all this information, you’re going to get a pretty good idea of what information your buyer models are going to want to have before they make a decision, which will then map to here’s the pages we have, to talk about those things. Here ideally is the flow that we want them to go through. Not everybody’s going to do it, but at least knowing this will help you create an easy path to get to those things, whether it’s nudges, call to action buttons, prioritizing certain things in navigation, et cetera.

In the deck that I send, you’ll see there actually is a slide that has a whole lot of these persuasive design patterns. That’s one of the things you can get if you download it. Then based on this, it’s going to help you inform your Sitemap navigations. It’s pretty key, so how people find the information. This is just really a matter of figuring out how do you label things? How do you group things that make sense? It reflects the things that they’re thinking of.

Then one of the really important things is then figuring out the pages themselves. Going through each of these key pages that you’ve identified through the couple slides earlier, and first thinking through what are the goals of the page? Why does it exist? What is the context of the page? Meaning when does somebody land on this page? Is it from another page? Is it a landing page? Is this the first page? Is it the last page. What you want them to do next, being very clear about that, and what they’re trying to get out of that page. What the desired information.

Based on this, you can just block out. It doesn’t have to be fancy. It can just be a sketch. Now I know these things, and overlaying your buyer models becomes pretty easy to say, “Here’s the most important things. Let’s put the section here. Here’s the different messages we need to have.” You can even start working in some of those persuasive design patterns that you see outlined here like optimism bias and social proof. You want to go through and do this for each of your key pages.

Finally, you want to think about your calls to action. A call to action is literally anytime you’re asking the user to do something like click here, watch this video, contact us, asking the user to do something makes it much more likely that they’re actually going to do it, compared to just hoping that they figure it out. Some people won’t know. It’s amazing just asking someone to do something makes it more likely that they’re going to do it. Similar to a few slides earlier, you’re going to want calls to action for every stage of the funnel and at each stage of some things you want to think about.

For example, where are you going to place it, maybe some logistical things. The main things is you want to think about what are the emotional benefits that somebody will have by taking this action, because if it’s not clear how the user’s going to benefit from it, they’re not going to do it. They’ve got other things to do. It needs to be very clear that it’s worth their time and investment. First, you want to think about what are the emotional benefits. Maybe that’s having confidence in the future, feeling secure. Then again, the logical benefits, how can they justify that feeling that yes, I should do this.

You should also call out what objections they might have as well, because if there is a potential objection, like, “I don’t have time to watch a webinar,” and you say, “It’s only 18 minutes long.” Then they’d say, “Actually, I do have time to watch that.” You can prevent them from moving forward in that stage. Really important to think about having calls to action, what do you want them to do, and then making sure it’s clear how they’re going to benefit from it. Poorly execute calls to action don’t work very well.

Ultimately those are the things that if you put all those together, it’ll create a really clear plan of how you need to either design your site from scratch or potentially readjust and realign your website to make it more effective so that more people really resonate with what it is you’re offering and they’re more likely to purchase. To recap some of the things we talked about. Your website, really the way you should think about approaching it is you’ve got your business objectives and your user needs, and you want to find and focus on that critical overlap of where do we benefit and where do our users benefit.

A lot of times this comes down to prioritization where it might be really tempting to freely focus on what do we want, the reasons why we want our website to exist, and deprioritize what users want, but instead, you really want to prioritize the target audience, your target audience. What are they coming to the site for? What do they want to get out of it? If you can give that to them, they’re much more likely to purchase both emotionally and logically.

Similarly, don’t put too much emphasis on logic. It needs to be there, but really understand that it’s not emotion playing a very small role in the decision. It’s actually emotion plays a majority role in the decision and logic is used to justify things afterwards. The way that you can do this and actually execute this on your website, whether again you’re building a new one or you’re working on a landing page, or adjusting your current one, is first do a saturation dive, get as much information as possible about your target audience, synthesize that into a buyer model.

The baseline information you can pull out, what are the key messages, what should the tone be. Then you can move into the page strategy where you figure out what should the navigation be, how do we label things? Then for our key pages, how do we structure those? What are the persuasive design patterns that we want to use? What information needs to be there, and how do we move people through the journey on our site? Finally, you get people to actually act by creating really compelling calls to action that address their emotional needs and give them logical reasons where they can justify why I’m doing these things.

My name is Ross Johnson. I’m a designer strategist in the agency called 3.7 Designs, which I founded in 2005. Also, we have a sister company called SnapOrbital where we sell some plugins to popular plugins like LearnDash and e-commerce, and easy digital downloads. We also have our own project management plugin at If you want, you can download the workbook that we use with clients and that I demonstrate here at It’s completely free, just download it. Feel free to use it, and hope you find it useful. That is the end of the show or the presentation. I think it’s probably time for Q&A.

Patrick: Yes. Ross, that was fantastic. We’ve got a couple questions here. I’ve got a couple of my own. For anyone who’s watching, if you do have a question, feel free to enter it. Now there’s a 22-second delay. Go ahead and ask your questions now so that there’s time for them to populate and I can ask them to you. There’s a couple great questions. Let me just start with one big thing, is you covered so many topics in this webinar. I go to a lot of– I love marketing conferences I love going to marketing events and learning about frameworks. You covered the buyer’s journey, the jobs to be done framework, which I usually put more in the product camp.

Less in marketing camp, but it was great. The five whys, the logic map. Another one that I picked up from Brene brown, which is like personal development, is human beings are emotional machines, not logic machines. A StoryBrand, which I did see at e-commerce conference. At least six frameworks. For anyone who’s watching, if you were– Overloaded isn’t the right word. If you want to dig in more, I think all six of those topics have books written about them. There’s infinite depth here of you can go a lot further in each of these. You covered a lot. Thank you for that.

Ross: I will say for anybody who feels intimidated by the amount of frameworks, a lot of those you don’t necessarily have to read an entire book to start using. You could read a blog poster to get the gist of it and then start practicing it. Then, if it seems like it’s helpful, you can buy the book or the course and really fine-tune it.

Patrick: Let me start with just a question I had here, is you talked about people make decisions emotionally and then they justify them with logic. That’s great for life. It’s great for business. I think about it a lot. You’re aware of that, great people make decisions with logic. What do I do with that? Do I put that into my copy? Let me give you an example here. These five features will help you run a stress-free business. Do you put the emotions in the copy? Because I don’t think you can like make someone feel a thing, but maybe you can make it more likely for them to feel a thing. What are your thoughts there?

Ross: Definitely. I think you need to work it into your messaging. It doesn’t have to be explicit. You don’t necessarily have to say, “We know you’re worried about losing your job,” but you might want to use more emotionally charged words, or at least kind of understand that somebody’s coming there with that fear. Maybe one of the things you’re messaging is trying to do is help them overcome that fear.

Trying to give them that sense of security and safety. We’re going to be here to make sure that doesn’t happen. The copywriters probably have a better idea of how exactly to word it. As a designer, typically what we’ll do is hand the copywriter the page strategy and say, “What we’re trying to do in this section is address these emotions that they’re having.” Then they kind of find the best way to phrase it specifically.

Patrick: Fantastic. I will go ahead and just put up some kudos here. It’s just nice to see them. It’s nice to see that a bunch of people really appreciated your presentation here. While I’m pulling those up, one person did ask for the link again. I’ll also put the link there at the bottom. That’s where your notes will be. Then I’ll let that sit up there on the screen for a minute, and then I’ll put up the other link. I’ll let that sit up there for a second.

Let me pull up one of these other questions here which I thought this one was really good. This is from Patrick. I’m not going to get the last name. Just Patrick, “How do you deal with the issue of what people think they want versus what they actually want? You used the example of “why” three times or five times, but how can you do that on the site itself?” How can you do it when people maybe think they want something but your solution gives them something slightly different that they might actually like more if they dig into it a little bit longer? I think that’s what the question is.

Ross: I think there’s probably a couple ways you might handle this. One is maybe you want to speak to what they think they want, especially if you’re not getting a chance to talk to them directly before they actually purchase. Maybe you want to talk about how you could solve this problem or potentially you could call it out directly. I think that’s the other thing, is you might think you want this, but in actuality, this is how this is going to better benefit you.

Maybe you create some articles or blog posts around it, maybe a video of that sort of thing. The more I think about it, really it probably pays it’d probably be effective to really try and address it directly. If you know they’re thinking something else, why not call it out? Why not demonstrate that you understand what they’re thinking and then tell them why your solution is a better solution?

Patrick: Let me follow up on this. I think a lot of people say, “I want to go to the gym and work out really hard for 30 days and then have an immediate beach body.” I think as a trainer, you’re probably like, “You probably want a weekly routine. Slow and steady progress.” I think that’s a good example. I’m putting on my marketing hat, when I say, when I write a piece of content or put something on the homepage that talks about the 30-day binge workout versus the– Is that how you would address that is you would still acknowledge it’s a real thing, but then tell them why your method is better?

Ross: Exactly. Yes. You might have a section that says maybe very specifically, we understand you’re hoping for results in 30 days. That would be great. We all would. Who wouldn’t want to look significantly different in 30 days? Here’s the reality. Even if you could work out super hard for 30 days and get results, [00:50:00] that’s not sustainable. You need as a sustainable program. You want your goals to reach your goals, which we think are X, Y, and Z, here’s what’s going to get there. It’s going back to that StoryBrand framework where they had this problem, you’re the guide, you’re telling them, “Here is the plan that’s going to get the results that you want.”

Patrick: Perfect. Here’s another one. This is more of a Paid Memberships Pro question. I’ll take this one. People always ask about different themes. I’m not specifically familiar with Aardvark, but Paid Memberships Pro works with anything. That’s one of the best things about WordPress, is most plugins should work with any theme. We do have our member light theme if you want something that’s made by us. Then the other thing I’ll recommend here is the Gutenberg block editor is getting better and better.

Just this year, they’ve really started pushing out these Gutenberg first themes, that’s not quite right, block first themes, I’ve forgotten exactly what they’re called. Go to and look up some of those themes that are based in blocks, that’s the next era of WordPress themes that are just starting to come out. If you’re building a new site, look into one of those just because that’s what’s going to be around in three to four years. That would be my tip for you there. Let me put up another kudos while I find the next question. It’s nice to see when people appreciate a presentation style. Katie liked your presentation style there.

Ross: Thank you, Katie.

Patrick: Here’s another one from Jason. Oops, sorry, oh, no, that’s a good one. Here’s a great one. If you offer a free membership product or free digital product of whatever type, the free one is usually a step in the buyer’s journey to get the paid thing or a fraction, 50%, 10%, 90%, some percent of people go on and get the paid thing. Is it possible to have call to actions for both because? Let’s say someone’s a brand new prospect and they don’t have the free product, do I try to I try to get them to sign up for the free product or– Some percent of people, 5% of people, may just jump straight to the paid product, do I have a separate call to action for people who are ready to buy today? How do you handle that?

Ross: It’s a great question. I think you can do both, you certainly can have calls to action for both. The way that I would think about that is going back to prioritization, which is a big part of design in general. A lot of design is really just figuring out what’s more important and then making sure that it’s prioritized in the page of the site itself. What I would do is figure out which one of those happens most often or what drives the biggest volume of business. If it is, the most people are going to sign up for free and then upsell at some point in the journey, then certainly, you’re not going to want to prioritize the thing that’s less effective.

I would put more attention to the one that’s driving more business. Then have the other one visible and obvious but just maybe the ways you could deprioritize it, maybe it’s less visually striking. It just draws less attention, or maybe it’s not in all the same places. There’s only certain parts of the site that you know the more engaged people, the people who are more likely to jump right in, that’s where it shows up. The thing you don’t want to do is have both of them next to each other equally because it becomes much harder to decide which one do I do. If I tell you remember the number 24 and 99, that’s going to be a lot harder than if I just said, “Remember the number 24.” Trying to split their focus is always going to be less effective.

Patrick: Perfect. There’s something, I remember some optimization tips from years ago, is you want to give people almost as few choices as possible so they don’t mess it up and giving someone. Download the free product is really hard to mess up because you’ve asked them to do one thing versus download the free product and or if you’re ready, buy the premium product, there’s a chance some people just do nothing.

Ross: Exactly. Yes, the more options you have, the less likely you are to make a decision. You can simplify it to a yes or no, that tends to work the best.

Patrick: Perfect. Just following up on Aardvark, Jason looked it up and it looks like they’re designed for this plug-in. Yay, we’re good there. Perfect. Jason had another question about emotions. Let me try to find this question. It’s two-part here, “Which emotions work best for marketing?” That’s part one. Part two, “If it’s fear, how can we get comfortable with invoking the feeling if it doesn’t come natural?” Number one, which emotions work best for marketing. Number two, specifically about fear.

Ross: Got you. I think it’s hard to say that any emotion works specifically better than the others. It’s really situational. The situation that somebody is in is going to dictate what emotion drives them to act. I will say though that fear of loss, in general, is a pretty strong, innate human characteristic. That one does tend to work pretty well. I think the thing to keep in mind is that if fear is going to motivate somebody, it’s not necessarily that you’re trying to scare the living daylights out of them.

In most situations, like me, if you’re selling security products or insurance or that sort of thing, maybe that is what you’re trying to do. Maybe it’s just this underlying fear that things won’t go well or that something’s not going to work out, or I won’t be successful. It’s not so much that you want to try and use it in an unethical mean way, but just acknowledging what they’re already feeling and then framing it in a positive way of saying, “We’re going to help you get out of this situation.” As long as that’s actually what you’re doing, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, if your product or service actually helps people overcome that fear, then I think it’s a great thing.

Patrick: Perfect. I think I’ll put up another kudos while I have one more question here. I think the question is, when should people think about this? Specifically, lots people use our software as they’re fleshing out an idea. They have a membership site idea, they think they want to talk about it’s a monthly fitness newsletter, something like that. At what point do they start using design psychology? Is it from day one or is it–

Here, I will admit something, I don’t do any– I have a background as a developer, I don’t do any automated tests until a plugin has 50 sales. I’m not building automated testing until there’s 50 sales. Is there a threshold for when you should really start digging in? Because this is a lot of time and research. I know there’s a payoff, but I’m just wondering, at what point does that pay off and the time and effort become 100% useful?

Ross: That’s a great question. I think there is some overlap almost from a product design standpoint, where the research and insights you’re going to get from better understanding your target audience could shape the product itself and the features, and what your go-to-market looks like. Some of the stuff you might have already done, but if not, I think the moment you’re getting ready to just start promoting it, you want people to start using it more than maybe a closed beta or something like that.

I think that’s a really good point. You don’t necessarily have to go through the full process that we talked about there, but at least get your buyer models done, do the research, synthesize that information because having that background is going to help all of your promotional decisions even if it’s not touching your website.

Patrick: I’ll just say that I did some buyer research last summer. We talked to these different users, people who use membership sites for different use cases. We thought that one of them would love the premium product. It turned out they were the lead people least likely to like the premium product and this other group was. We didn’t know that until we did the research. Then that helps us change our marketing material. It does seem like you don’t want to wait too long, because then otherwise you’re leaving money on the table of all these potential visitors that had the wrong message sent to them.

Ross: Exactly. There’s always surprises. Every time we’ve ever done this, there’s always surprises. That’s part of the fun. It’s like you go into it, everybody’s sure of one thing, and you come out of it and you’re like, “Wow, we were completely wrong.”

Patrick: Perfect. Ross has been helpful. I think we got all the questions. I’m pretty sure if I missed one, apologies. Go ahead and send us a DM on Twitter or on Facebook, and we’ll try to get to it. I will just add one more time, the little banners at the bottom of the screen. We will have a recording, which I think it’s to just be there right now on our site. Then Ross, I’ll put up his URL, has the notes and the slides and the workbook on your site. Lots of great stuff for everyone to follow up with here. We hope you really enjoyed this webinar. Ross, thank you so much for coming on. I think people learned a lot. You gave people so many frameworks for them to spend the next year reading up on.

Ross: Great. Thanks for having me. Hope everybody found it useful. I look forward to seeing a lot of very effective websites in the near future.

Patrick: Thank you very much. Bye, everyone.

Ross: Bye.