Ben Leftwich | July 27, 2016

Commitment and consistency in web design

Converting visitors on your website can be a tedious and difficult process at times. You want them to take a particular action, but for some reason they keep leaving the site without ordering your product or even making contact. How can you improve these low conversion rates?

One approach is to take a lesson from Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion and apply it to the design of your checkout or landing pages. That lesson focuses on commitment and consistency.

Essentially, commitment and consistency states that once an individual has made a commitment (either small or large), they will do everything they can to justify that this choice aligned with their inner beliefs and values.

Here’s a real life example: you’re at the grocery store and a vendor is there offering free samples. You weren’t going to buy it before you came in, but you go ahead and try the sample they give you. Are you more likely now to purchase the product?

Most would answer that they are significantly more likely. Part of it may be due to the fact you enjoyed what they were offering, but a more significant reason is likely that you are trying to resolve the commitment you just made to try the free sample with your beliefs.

But how can you bring this very powerful psychological phenomenon online when you’re not standing in front of another person? There are a few ways, but here are three we particular like to use.

Ask for a small commitment right away

Instead of going for the ask you really want from people who visit your site, have them make a small commitment right away when they arrive to soften them up for the real request.

Here’s an example of what I mean. You’re a major telecom company and you want people to upgrade their phones, and you have a great online store that allows people to configure their mobile plan and purchase online.

Instead, when users arrive on the site, ask them a question like: When I have the latest phone, I feel like I have a bigger life. [I don’t agree].

The agree/disagree are buttons that a user can hit on that lightbox when they arrive. Those who agree are taken to the phone and plan configurator page, those that don’t agree stay on the homepage.

It’s a quick way to segment your audience, and those who agree are much more likely to complete their phone purchase to keep their inner beliefs in alignment with their actions.

Break up forms into small, thoughtful steps

Long webforms are intimidating for users for a multitude of reasons. People are busy, and if they see there are 20 fields they have to fill out to complete their task they are likely to run away as quickly as possible from the site.

The trick here isn’t to drop those 20 fields (after all, you need all that information), but instead to break up the form into manageable steps.

Let’s say you’re a local charity who wants to raise donations from individuals in the community on your website. There’s certain information you have to collect: name, email, donation amount, credit card details, address, etc. That’s a lot for people to fill in so how do you make sure they actually complete the process and make their donation?

The trick is to start with them committing to the amount they intend to donate (say $100), before inputting any of their personal details.

By making their donation commitment the first step in the process, they feel compelled to complete the rest of the steps because they need to make sure their actions align with their inner values. It’s can actually be painful for people to abandon the process after making that initial donation commitment.

Make interaction elements a commitment

Use every opportunity in your design to reinforce the commitment a user is making to your offering. One of the easiest ways to do this in your designs is to make the interaction elements (buttons, checkboxes, radio buttons) commitments in and of themselves.

Take a company who sells auto insurance. You want to push people to get quotes, and most people are quite price sensitive when it comes to auto insurance. They know they need it, but they don’t want to pay more than they have to and they know that getting a quote can be a bit painful.

To encourage visitors to begin and, perhaps more importantly, complete the quote process it’s important for them to make a small commitment up front. So, instead of simply a button that reads: Get a Quote, have the button read: Yes, I’m ready to save up to 15% on auto insurance.

That small shift will encourage users to complete what can be a tedious process of entering the information they need to get an auto quote, and will ultimately lead to more policies written.

In summary

The concept of commitment and consistency can be a powerful tool in web design if used at the right stage of the process. Try incorporating it into your next project and see how a small commitment early on can lead to better outcomes and conversions on your site.

Ben Leftwich

Account Director