Are Your Interface Designs Compellingly Persuasive?

Paul Boag

On this episode of the Boagworld Show, we look at how to make your designs more persuasive and how far you should go in the pursuit of conversion.

This weeks show is sponsored by Balsamiq and FullStory.

Thanks to Lightspring from Shutterstock for allowing me to use this image.


Paul Boag: On this episode of the Boagworld Show, we look at how to make your designs more persuasive and how far you should go in the pursuit of conversion.

This season of the podcast is sponsored by Balsamiq and Fullstory.

Hello, and welcome to the Boagworld Show, the podcast about all aspects of digital design, developing and strategy, my name is Paul Boag and joining me on this weeks show is Marcus Lillington and Joe Leech. Hello all!

Marcus: Hello, hello.

Joe Leech: Hello hello hello.

Paul Boag: Hello, testing-

Marcus: Is this thing on?

Paul Boag: Testing, one two three? Is it-yeah. So you got back from Switzerland okay then Marcus?

Marcus: Oh, sorry yes, I've just been having a call with the Swiss people, and I messed up because they're an hour ahead and when I saw that I had the podcast recording in my calendar, and I thought I had to add an hour when I took an hour away or something like that so I was halfway through a very important meeting with a client and had to go "Bye!" So-

Paul Boag: And here you are now-

Marcus: But anyway, and here I am! [crosstalk 00:01:26]

You kind of are because I'm here obviously so there you go.

Joe Leech: Wonderful.

Paul Boag: Did you say go away client, I've got something more important to do?

Marcus: That's, no. I said I've messed up I can't get out of this one. But no, Switzerland was gorgeous as ever, it was all sorts of snowy and gorgeous.

Paul Boag: Did you come away with chocolate?

Marcus: Always.

Paul Boag: Good.

Marcus: Every meeting room at [inaudible 00:01:56] where we were has chocolate in it.

Joe Leech: Wow.

Marcus: How good is that?

Paul Boag: I once met a woman who worked for an agency who did work for Ben&Jerry's Ice Cream, and they got a fridge delivered from Ben&Jerry's to their office, which was continually filled with Ben&Jerry's Ice Cream. All the time, they just constantly topped it up.

Joe Leech: Wow, that's a gig and half isn't it?

Paul Boag: I have never had a client like that and my life is poorer for it, is all I can say.

Marcus: This is the only client that ever sends us things and they send us chocolates at Christmas.

Joe Leech: That's really nice. I did do some work for Ritz Coltons once and that was great cuz yeah, I got to stay at Ritz Coltons. So that was good for awhile.

Paul Boag: I worked with Jack Daniels for a few years and became an alcoholic.

Marcus: I was gonna say no you didn't.

Paul Boag: I know, but it was funny.

Marcus: Vaguely funny, yeah.

Paul Boag: Let's joke about alcoholism, that always goes down well.

Marcus: Which parts of the show do I have to edit out this week?

Paul Boag: Yes. Well at least Andy Clark's not on the show, that always damages its political correctness. But instead we have the very lovely Joe Leech.

Joe Leech: Hi.

Paul Boag: Hello Joe, how's the black eye?

Joe Leech: The black eye's good. I look like I've been in a street brawl. I got attacked by 14 ninjas and my 14-month year old daughter. She got the killer blow in while I was fending the ninjas off. Yeah, I got given a black eye by my 14-month old daughter, so I'm … yes, looking like a street brawler.

Paul Boag: That's children for you, it just all goes downhill from there really Joe.

Joe Leech: Oh, wow, great. That's all that to look forward to.

Paul Boag: Yeah, that's really good. Like I was saying just before we recorded, the real dangerous time is where they're at groin height and they're not particularly stable on their feet, that gets very dangerous.

Joe Leech: That's lots of grabbing I can imagine yeah, not a very nice position to be in really.

Paul Boag: It's headbutting. They run headlong at you.

Joe Leech: Kids, eh, kids! Who doesn't love em.

Paul Boag: Exactly.

Marcus: Headbutted on the nose by my grandson this weekend, but I didn't get a, there was no blood or black eye-ness going on, but yeah I know the feeling.

Joe Leech: It's cuz you're a pro now, you've got those subtle movements that are just inbuilt from all those years experience of getting your eyes out of the way of babies heads.

Marcus: You forget it all, every single minute bit of it is forgotten until they come along again.

Paul Boag: Well, all you need to remember … I've made a mental note now, is I need to remember to wear a crash helmet at all times around my grandchildren, if I have any.

Marcus: Course you will Paul.

Paul Boag: Well I don't know [crosstalk 00:05:01]

Marcus: Hoards of them.

Paul Boag: Well, I've only got one child myself so, he's gonna have to get super busy if I'm going to end up with hoards of them. He might choose not to have any children, he might never … Live alone on a pile of poo as a hermit.

Marcus: Where did that come from?

Paul Boag: You haven't seen his bedroom, so, it's not such a great leap. Teenage boy to sitting on a pile of poo, it could happen.

Marcus: Right, okay.

Paul Boag: Well you had a teenage boy, you must know what it's like.

Marcus: Yeah I did, yeah. And he wasn't always, still quite messy, even though he's 23. He's like a proper grownup now but he's still messy and still a bit "uh-ey". But he's lovely as well, very lovely.

Paul Boag: Well yeah, they can be lovely and disgusting at the same time. I look at him sometimes and I think how can I love you so much, look at the state of you.

Marcus: Is he big now?

Paul Boag: Well, big vertically, but not horizontally.

Marcus: Oh like mine then. James is still under 10 stone and he's 6'2 I think, or 3.

Joe Leech: Wow.

Marcus: Yes, complete opposite of me.

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Marcus: I'm like a dwarf from The Lord of the Rings.

Paul Boag: Do you know what? Now that you say that out loud, that makes a lot of sense. That's it, you've got dwarvish ancestry.

Marcus: That's what it is, it's from Devin that's why.

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Marcus: Anyway, I'll shut up, let Joe talk, he's the guest!

Paul Boag: Yeah, but it's Joe.

Marcus: Yeah.

Paul Boag: So, that's alright. Well no it's always the way. Don't you find it, it's like …

Joe Leech: Can't get a word in edge-wise, that's the problem I hear with this show.

Paul Boag: I don't [crosstalk 00:06:57]

Joe Leech: You come on here, you don't say very much.

Paul Boag: Well exactly. Well you don't think it's about the guest, it's about me. It always has been, everybody knows.

Joe Leech: The clue is in the name after all.

Paul Boag: Exactly! If I ever knew anybody was gonna read my blog, I might've thought twice about that title. It's Pete Boston's fault, isn't it? Marcus do you remember that?

Marcus: Is it? I don't know, that's far too far in the distant mire of time. Did he come up with it then?

Paul Boag: Yeah, I thought as you get older you're supposed to remember things further back Marcus.

Marcus: That's a good point.

Paul Boag: You're supposed to have good long-term memory. No it was so … It all started because Pete Boston took the piss out of me for living in my own little world, which he coined as being Boagworld so I bought the domain name.

Joe Leech: And here we are.

Paul Boag: Exactly. So it's all his fault. [crosstalk 00:07:55] I mean you can't top my … Joe, Mr. Joe, where did Mr. Joe come from? Were people not giving you enough respect?

Joe Leech: Generally not, before all this internet thing took off I was an English teacher, I used to teach English as a foreign language. I taught a lot of Japanese kids and they could never pronounce my surname and they could never just call me Joe informally, so they used to call me Mr. Joe. [crosstalk 00:08:22] I was doing the same thing looking for a domain, I grabbed Mr. Joe.

Paul Boag: It's funny isn't it that we've all been lumbered with these domains that basically are meaningless. Does anybody know, do you know where Jeremy Keith's domain name adatio comes from?

Marcus: Oh that'll be some Greek mythology and totally deliberate [crosstalk 00:08:45]

Joe Leech: Extremely smart, very clever reason behind where it came from, almost certainly. But ya know we have to count our blessings, at least you're not Boagworld63 or I'm Mr. Joe99. So at the very least we did get there a little bit earlier than other people who share our nicknames, I'm sure there are many of.

Paul Boag: Yeah that's true. [crosstalk 00:09:07] But I always feel sorry for Leigh because that can backfire on you, because Lee who is one of the designer stroke consultant people at Headscape, he got in with myself very early on in Twitter and he actually managed to get the username Leigh. Which you'd think wow that's great! Isn't that wonderful? Except that he regularly gets tweets for other people.

Joe Leech: Oh yeah, I'm the same. At Mr. Joe I get loads of tweets for other people @Mr. Joe and Instagram as well. On Instagram I have the same thing, I'm Mr. Joe on Instagram and once, about two years ago, I accidentally got tagged in a photo that Paris Hilton took. Yeah, obviously cus that's the sort of people, that's the circles I move in is you guys and Paris Hilton. She miss-tagged me in a photo and I'm overnight I picked up about 2,500 followers just by being miss-tagged by Paris since she's on twitter as well. Cus Mr. Joe is also the fashion editor for Yahoo Style and so yeah, I got miss-tagged and there we go, I gathered a lot more followers. So many [inaudible 00:10:17] this one guy still follows me and comments on lots of the stuff I post on Instagram back from that incident, he's a nice chap but [crosstalk 00:10:24].

Paul Boag: Does he realize that you're not actually close with Paris Hilton?

Joe Leech: Well, I don't know. I mean, I've not ever explicitly said I'm not, so, I think it's probably obvious from my Instagram feed, which is full of dogs and babies that I'm probably not that close to Paris Hilton. My life is not that exciting or glamorous really, hence the black eye.

Paul Boag: But you're happier for it.

Joe Leech: I'm much happier for it. But I do get a lot of miss-@s on both Instagram and Twitter because of my name.

Paul Boag: Cus we did, it [inaudible 00:10:58] we did me up for lunch recently, and we basically just sat there feeling smug for a couple of hours, didn't we? Is we-

Joe Leech: It was really nice actually. It was nice but at the same time it's nice to have a conversation with you without a microphone on for a change so it was a quite pleasant thing to talk about really. But here we are back having a conversation with microphones on so…

Paul Boag: Most of my life, but I've recorded that lunch, you do know that [crosstalk 00:11:19]

Joe Leech: A bonus edition of the podcast.

Paul Boag: Absolutely.

Joe Leech: Good stuff in that lunch conversation. If you do listen to it there was some genuinely good advice we gave each other I think.

Paul Boag: Yes! I know, it was very, it was a mutual helping one another out, wasn't it? But who is that guy, Justin TV that streamed his entire life, didn't he? So I'll do that then. No, it was good, it was really good to me, and talk about independent consultant life and I told you your hourly rate wasn't high enough and you told me my workshop rate wasn't high enough, so basically we just egged each other on to charge clients more, didn't we? I think that's what it about boiled down to.

Joe Leech: Yeah we did. And do you know what I think that's something that's a bit of an issue in our industry generally, sort of the big folks, like the big management consultancies that charge a fortune. I think most of us probably aren't charging enough for our services. I mean if you're a client listening to this, I do apologize but obviously we deliver value but it's … The rates we charge compared to the skills we offer, compared to hiring somebody from one of those awful [inaudible 00:12:25] or one of those awful management consultancies to do web stuff with, ya know, the value is definitely there.

Paul Boag: It's funny isn't it, how that works, because it … Especially in our kind of, when you start doing consultancy stuff, a lot of it is like the more you charge, the more value you perceive to give whether you do or not. Which is why people love these big management consultancies, cus they can, I don't know, because they charge a lot [crosstalk 00:12:51]

Joe Leech: They must be, the advice must be worth 2,500 pounds a day. When ya know, having worked alongside them, they're nice people but their advice is rarely worth that much.

Paul Boag: No.

Marcus: Agreed. I can't find out what adatio means, he doesn't tell anyone anywhere and it doesn't seem to mean anything else.

Paul Boag: He probably just, he made up a word, didn't he, to sound clever.

Marcus: Well, it's probably part of a big quiz to see if you can be part of the really clever club, and I can't.

Paul Boag: No, no. I'm not even gonna try, that's how confident I am that I wouldn't get in to the clever club. I'm not even gonna waste my time doing it.

So, we've got Joe on the show this week to talk about persuasion and psychology and things like that. Cus you wrote a book on this, didn't you awhile back?

Joe Leech: I did, yeah. I wrote a book called "Psychology for Designers" the last edition was about 18 months ago that I published the last edition.

Paul Boag: Oh, right! So you [crosstalk 00:13:55]

Joe Leech: Four and a half years ago? Yeah, I updated it.

Paul Boag: Wow.

Joe Leech: Fairly recently.

Paul Boag: So have you got background in this, are you like qualified or are you like me, just making it up as you go along?

Joe Leech: Yes I do, and I like to say it was a grand plan to bring myself to this moment in time when I would be a consultant looking at how to apply psychology in the digital design world, but it wasn't. At 16, I sort of had the choice of doing computer science degree or a degree in neurobiology. And computer science was just, I looked at it and it didn't really fill me full of excitement but the neuroscience one did, so it was just a choice I sort of made at 16 without really knowing what I was getting myself into. So yeah, I've got a degree in neuropsychology, and I also have a Masters in human computer interaction. Which is the study of how people interact with technology and physical objects, so kind of like ergonomics but for computer software. So I've a Masters in that from [inaudible 00:14:57][crosstalk 00:14:58] 14 years ago.

Marcus: Good university as well, very well done.

Joe Leech: Thank you very much.

Paul Boag: I'm very much out of my depth at this point. Intelligent people talking about intelligent things is not my strength. And then you went and worked with/almost help found CX Partners, didn't you? Which is a huge monstrosity of an agency at this point.

Joe Leech: Yeah, they're pretty big these days, they're … I was employee number three at CX Partners, so that would've been about 10 years ago now, and I was there for about eight and a half years all in all. [crosstalk 00:15:34] When I left there was about 80 people. So yes its, I did. [crosstalk 00:15:41] One of the best in the UK, the world some may say.

Paul Boag: Yeah. They're very good, they're very, put out some great stuff as well. So you didn't get share options and you're not sitting on a big mountain of gold then like Smaug?

Joe Leech: I think we've talked about it before, the last time I was on the show we talked about the economics of running a design agency there isn't a large amount of money behind a design agency really, so I did have share options and were they worth very much? Not enough for me to want to stay around long-term. I think short of getting bought by a bank or a large management consultancy, most design agencies is quite unusual to be able to make it to retire on the proceeds from selling an agency, and especially if you're an [inaudible 00:16:33] No way would you be able to make a fortune from[inaudible 00:16:38]

Paul Boag: So now it's just you.

Joe Leech: Just me, yeah.

Paul Boag: Doing your thing, which as we concluded when we went out for lunch is the life of [inaudible 00:16:48].

Joe Leech: Well, yeah I mean, I guess [crosstalk 00:16:53] when it's good it's great, and it's fantastic, but when it's not good it's really hard work. [crosstalk 00:16:58] It goes both ways really. At the moment, yes things are good, but equally there's times where things have been harder and I've not got anybody to help.

Marcus: I hate to be on my own, that'd be awful.

Paul Boag: Yeah and I do, I do still miss you guys actually. Especially, like Joe says, when it comes to some big decision or something difficult it's frustrating when you're trying to work that through yourself. And you talk to other people about it, but they don't really understand the business properly and its got it's pros and its cons, absolutely.

Joe Leech: Definitely has.

Marcus: The biggest pro of being on your own is you can just think ya know what, it's 11 in the morning I'm knocking off today whereas I can't really do that. I can, but I can't.

Joe Leech: You're the boss, you can do that. You can say [crosstalk 00:17:52]

Marcus: There's another boss that never stops working is [crosstalk 00:17:57]

Joe Leech: Even better, that's even more reason for you to take it, take some time.

Paul Boag: Yeah, but he's very good at making you feel guilty.

Marcus: Totally.

Paul Boag: He's got that kind of passive-aggressive guilt trip thing down to an absolute tee, especially when you go out and buy a kit without asking him.

Marcus: I just do that now.

Paul Boag: Yeah, he's still like, "My iPhone 5 is perfectly fine, why do you need to upgrade every time?" I was so mean to Chris because he, he doesn't deserve it he's lovely.

Marcus: He's very lovely, he's also poorly today, bless him.

Paul Boag: Oh is he?

Marcus: Yeah.

Paul Boag: He doesn't often get poorly.

Marcus: No, no. Well I don't know, he's just got a bit of a cold, and he's gotta go out to London tonight for a workshop tomorrow, which is particularly miserable if you've just got a cold coming on.

Paul Boag: It really is. Aww for Chris.

Right, lets-

Marcus: Moving on, forget him.

Paul Boag: Right, that's enough of that. Let's talk about Balsamiq, our sponsor, and then we'll actually get into the discussion cus I've just looked at the clock and realized how much time we've wasted, as usual. So Balsamiq is, it's now web based, chances are you've heard of Balsamiq before, most people have most people have used it. But you might not know that it's moved, you can still get the application you just download and do the rest of it, but there's a web based version of it now called Balsamiq Cloud, which is perfect for collaboration.

Because it's got things like built in threaded comments, [inaudible 00:19:33] but it also allows real-time collaboration and it's even got like a chat panel and all that type of stuff you'd expect for collaboration. So you can have multiple project owners with specific project editors and reviewers, so you can do all of that kind of permission stuff, you can do public reviews and comments by publishing basically a link and it gives you a link that you can then share around wherever you want. Of course, this is great for getting the whole team involved in creating wire frames and expressing their ideas and of course, it's Balsamiq! So it's really easy to use, it's just drag, drop, and resize. Which obviously is perfect for non-designer types.

You can get a free 30-day trial of it where you just give it a go, if you decide you wanna sign up, when you enter your billing information if you use the code: Balsamiq Boag, you'll also get three months for free at the start of your paid account version. So to get all of that, to give it a try, to have a little play, go to

Joe Leech: I really like that [crosstalk 00:20:41] I really like Balsamiq, it's one of those tools I keep going back to that I think is fantastic. If you want to get quick ideas out, it's so fast. I love it for that, it's brilliant, yeah. Such a great little tool, so well done Balsamiq, keep going.

Paul Boag: Exactly. Now, it's funny, I have to leave extra time every time I talk about Balsamiq for whoever the guest is to inevitably say they really like Balsamiq, cus it's just one of those tools that, it's so simple I think that's the thing.

Marcus: So tempting to say I think it's rubbish.

Paul Boag: Go on then.

Marcus: Well I said it, didn't I?

Paul Boag: I know you don't that, nobody does, it's Balsamiq, how can you criti- criticizing Balsamiq would be like criticizing a newborn baby. It would just be wrong.

Marcus: Oh, yeah.

Paul Boag: Just can't do it can you? No.

Anyway, what we wanna talk about, yes, we wanna talk about persuasion and creating compelling interfaces because we're doing a season on UI design. Now, this is something I'm very much into. I run workshops on it, I write about it quite a lot, but unlike Joe I have no qualifications in this field whatsoever and I'm just making it up as I go along. So, we thought let's get a grown up on the show to talk about it as well. We couldn't get a grownup, so we got Joe instead. Now [crosstalk 00:22:06] people listen to this for my witty banter.

Right, so, let's talk about it. Ultimately, in my opinion at least, we call ourselves designers. We're not artists, we're designers. Now, a designer creates something with a purpose to it, it's to achieve certain goals. And that means that ultimately, the websites we produce have to meet some kind of objective. Typically, that would be increasing leads, increasing sign ups, increasing sales, something along those lines, okay? Here's the problem that I see as designers that we face, is that we can do those things, there are lots of ways and means that we can achieve that kind of stuff. And especially if you get a bit of an understanding of psychology, and the principles of persuasion, you can do quite a lot to get people to convert. So where's the line in all of this? Where's the ethics in this? Joe, do you have any kind of rule of thumb in terms of how far you can push things?

Joe Leech: Definitely. So I've been around long enough to have worked … One of my very first projects actually at CX Partners was with a high street bank, and it was during the time of PPI Insurance, which I'm sure you all know about, which is the insurance they used to bundle with loans and credit cards where [inaudible 00:23:56] it's a payment and protection insurance. And I remember being put under a lot of pressure early on to use some of the psychology stuff that I learned to better sell PPI Insurance and for me I felt very uncomfortable to it because it's again … My line really is what that episode taught me about working for that high street bank, who've now had to pay millions in compensation for that stuff, is that I wouldn't want to lie or to cheat or to do something that I would feel uncomfortable if this was presented to me. That's really where my line is, so I don't lie, don't cheat, and I wouldn't do something that would make me feel uncomfortable if I was in that particular situation.

And that's my rule around it, that's where my line sits.

Paul Boag: That's really interesting cus I was recently presenting at UX Bournemouth on persuasive design. Somebody asked me that question, just before I'd gone on the stage I was chatting with the other speaker about it, which was a guy called Johnny Williams who works for the Big Lottery Fund. And he came up with a really good rule of thumb. Which is, imagine if somebody went through your website, and got to the end of the process and they purchase whatever or they converted, and if at that point you explain to them all of the tricks techniques and things you had done on that site in order to persuade them to buy, if they knew all of that at the end of the process would you feel comfortable them knowing it? And if you feel uncomfortable with them knowing it, the chances are you've pushed it too far. And I thought that was quite a nice way of viewing it actually. Does that make sense?

Joe Leech: That's a really nice way of doing it I think, cuz you're right if people … People are often half the time aren't aware of what's going on but they have this sort of subtle awareness subconsciously that something doesn't quite feel right, it feels a bit murky. And I think [inaudible 00:26:08] is one of the [crosstalk 00:26:10] the team all have got extremely smart, but the danger they have is every time you go on you feel slightly murky because of the … They do far too much of this. They're constantly applying small psychological pressures to you every small point and it doesn't feel particularly nice. So absolutely to the point about, if you were to explain to people everything that'd been done and people would feel weird about coming back to something like for doing it.

So I'm there. I shy away from even using the term persuasive stuff and often a lot of the tricks that are used, I steer away from. Cus I just don't feel comfortable doing it basically.

Paul Boag: It's really interesting you bring up, I literally just before I came here to record this I was down the coffee shop because Marcus I can go to the coffee shop whenever I want because I don't have another partner to rely on and I was meeting with my parents and we were chatting and-

Marcus: Only one room left now, it's gonna go, 30 seconds you're gonna miss it. One room left.

Paul Boag: Exactly.

Joe Leech: 15 people are looking at this room, just booked two minutes ago, it's all there.

Paul Boag: So we were talking about booking hotel rooms and my dad actually mentioned by name and he says that he books there quite regularly. But this is what he said, "I do not trust them as far as I can throw them. The only reason I use that site is cus it's easy." And for me that kind of said it all. The psychological tricks can be so dangerous and can actually undermine and probably the best thing you can do if you want to improve conversion and encourage loyalty and engagement and stuff like that is actually not to persuade anybody of anything but just the experience as easy as possible. I mean, it was a great little comment, it was really good.

Joe Leech: And it makes sense. Cus again, you think about … So psychology isn't just about persuasion, I think that's the other myth that comes around. Cuz I use psychology and lots of different types of it and, so a lot of this stuff around the idea of the dark arts. That's the bit that's quite exciting and sexy and interesting right now. Ya know, that the government's setting up the [inaudible 00:28:32] to get this stuff done. There's a lot of interest around that world of it, because it seems easy. And I think that's the story behind a lot of the stuff is you just do a few of these psychological tricks and you can increase your conversion rates. So if you look at the conversion rates, look at where I used to work. Done work with Marriott over the years,, none of them have the conversion rate that has. has by far in away the industry the highest conversion rate by five or six percent. It's huge, and that is simply because they are not afraid to use this stuff. So they don't care, they say they do, but they don't care, their main interest is selling as many hotel rooms as they possibly can.

Paul Boag: Do you think that damages them over the long-term?

Joe Leech: I mean it does, but the thing being that they are fairly dominant in the space right now. They've pretty much put everybody else out of business. There is other people out there to do it, but is the one. They have the largest search spends, if you're searching for hotels, that typically comes up. And they're very good at making you want to come back again, they've got a lot of addictive elements to what they're doing as well. So it's like smoking, it's the same deal. We know smoking's bad for us, but people still do it and still continue doing it. It's like, necessarily equating with smoking, but they use a lot of addictive stuff that's out there to get people to come back. It's bad for them and they don't feel good about doing it, they still come back and they still use it. [crosstalk 00:30:01] which is a different thing again.

Marcus: Smoking is way more fun than

Paul Boag: Way cooler.

Joe Leech: Is it? Is it, Marcus? Standing out in the rain and having a fag-

Marcus: You don't sit out in the rain, you just only smoke in the summer.

Joe Leech: Oh, okay.

Paul Boag: Fair enough, that's sorted then. Kids, take up smoking. That's what I think Marcus is saying.

Marcus: Only in the summer.

Paul Boag: But only in the summer.

Joe Leech: So that kind of brings me back to [inaudible 00:30:36] I often say with my code of conduct is that I always want to provide positive benefit from the stuff that I include. So if it's not positive feeling that I'm inducing in people, I don't want to get involved in supporting and using that kind of stuff. Like use things like the scarcity effect, which is only two left or they use things like the bandwagon effect, 15 people looking at this right now. They use all of these things, which are, yeah. Do they provide positive benefit, no they certainly don't. They create feelings of anxiety and increase bookings but long-term, course it hurts the brand. People don't feel particularly strongly towards them, they aren't a lovable brand in any way shape or form, they're cheap and they've got a lot of hotels but that's about as far as the positives can go in terms of

Paul Boag: And the fact that their site is easy to use, cus it is.

Joe Leech: Well it is, but it … Look at it a minute, it is and they do … This is a part of a lot of what they do. They do a lot of AB multi variant testing, they're huge on it, they've got one of those prolific and talented multi variant AB testing teams in the world. And it's because they're constantly evolving both the usability but also the psychological elements. [inaudible 00:31:48] not be afraid to throw in and see if it works or not. So that's why the usability is good, they've evolved it that's why their psychology is a little bit evil. Because it does increase sales, and anytime you're awarding a team, which the conversion rate team are awarded around conversion, the temptation is always going to be there in terms of getting your Christmas bonus to use slightly murky approaches to convert people. And that's what do.

Paul Boag: And the downside of that is the … The trouble with, I mean I'm a huge fan of split testing multi variant testing all of that but the trouble with it is you're only, it depends on what you're tracking. It's very easy to track increases in conversion, it's much harder to track dissatisfaction or negative brand impressions. So that's why you end up with this short-term ism in terms of what you can or should do.

Joe Leech: And it goes the same way with the bonus structures these organizations have. So they're all getting their bonuses based on that as well, so that amplifies it even more if you're told to set up to hit the metric and your bonus is set up to hit the metric, that's what you're going to focus on doing. It's abundantly true.

A good example is I used to work a lot with the train lines. So I worked on, actually the current designers still alive, on the website, I did a lot of work on that. Back when I was doing that there was a lot of pressure there to sell third party products, so there was a third party products team. They've now left so I can tell the story about it. A part of that was when you initially booked tickets through the train line, travel insurance was pre-ticked, so travel insurance in pre-included and we hoped that people wouldn't notice it was included and we'd make an extra couple of quid on each train booking. One of my proudest moments of that project was removing that and part of the challenge was then well, they'd spent a lot of time and effort in getting the psychology right to include travel insurance, part of the problem was also there was a team of three of them working on it at the train.

So three salaries that had to be paid for out of the money they made from travel insurance. So for me to go in and say "Well, do you know what, ethically and brand wise, you shouldn't be selling travel insurance." That's really hard if you're the person sat in the room who's head of travel insurance and I'm basically saying "You're not gonna meet your end of term targets and you're probably going to lose your job cus the numbers of travel insurance sales are gonna go through the floor." Because [crosstalk 00:34:27] more train tickets, that's travel insurance. And we did and we talked about it and sure enough that team left, but overall the perceptions towards the train line are vastly different before that project started in terms of being the people's champion a bit more. Not including rubbish travel insurance for a train ticket. I mean who needs travel insurance for a train ticket? Nobody does. So these things can change and organizations can change but the very structures of organizations can often encourage nefarious use of psychology, which is often why people call me, because I'm a psychologist.

Marcus: [inaudible 00:35:03] been getting a lot of press lately hasn't he? And there was even a chat in the Boagworld chat channel about this, because he's saying that designers need to take more responsibility for their actions. And it's a very easy thing to say, but as you were just saying Joe, if your bonus depends on whether you get to implement this kind of slightly shady thing then it's not so clear cut is it? Is it really hurting anyone? Pressurizing them into booking a hotel, is that what [inaudible 00:35:38] means? I don't know. He kind of talks about it in relation to the people who are gonna design the wall between America and Mexico. Yeah alright, fair enough, but can a hotel room hmm…

Joe Leech: I agree with you, but it's that idea of well you know is that hotel room gonna be a more expensive hotel room? Is it a hotel room you'd have booked for somebody else? Is it something you shouldn't be spending your money on? There's a whole load of ethical lines there as well, and I agree. Booking a hotel room's not the worst thing in the world, but PPI Insurance, going back to the example I worked on before, that was very much in that world. Where everybody's bonuses, the product manager of the loans offering at the bank I was working at, his bonus was tied exactly to sales of PPI Insurance, not sales of loans cuz they made no money on loans. They made all their money on PPI. It's that whole organization, it was an ethical bank. It's one of those banks that touts as being an ethical bank, the bank that I did this project in, which surprised me so much.

But even so those bonus structures are there so as a designer I was tempted to be in that world and the most powerful psychology, I remember it well, the most powerful psychology you can put in … So again, if you think about a loan application, this was the temptation, the loan application is, ya know, during a loan [inaudible 00:36:52] I know for a fact you're married, you've got three kids, I know the name of your partner, I know roughly how old your kids are I could go back and say, "Oh hey Marcus, wouldn't it be awful if you lost your job and wouldn't it be terrible if your wife and three kids had nobody to support them. Maybe you should consider taking out PPI Insurance."

That was I was asked to design was something along those lines, was to use the information we gathered from this loan application to sell PPI. And I was just appalled at that. And when I said to the guy about that he was like, "Well it's fine, it's not hurting anybody, they're getting the protection they need, they're still gonna get their loan, they're getting a good deal. Its not hurting anybody" fast-forward to where we are now, it's proven to be dishonest from a legal point of view.

Marcus: Don't get me wrong, I'm with [inaudible 00:37:35] on this and I don't like's pressurization techniques. It's not a, like everything in life, it's not black and white is it.

Paul Boag: Okay, well, alright I'll play devil's advocate in this then. We live in a capitalist society, we also in a liberal society where people make their own decisions about stuff, so if our role as designers is to provide a service to businesses, they hire us to do that, should we not do that to the best of our ability and deliver that service and leave it to individual consumers to make up their minds about what they're gonna do and what they're not. Okay, yes, sites like do pressure them and do harass them, but will not eventually the market adjust itself that people will get pissed off with and go elsewhere? And is it not our job as designers, if a company hires us to increase conversion, we do our best to do that. I'm not sure I believe this, I'm just saying.

Marcus: It depends on what techniques you're using to make that happen. I guess you gotta ask yourself is this right and am I happy about doing it.

Joe Leech: Is it something I believe in? I've worked with gambling organizations over the past, I've worked for Betfair, I did a big project for them a few years ago, and I thought well I'll try it, I'll see what the gambling industry's like and again the pressure was there to use a lot of this stuff to get people to gamble more, and it appalled me, and I'm never gonna work gambling organizations again. I thought I'd give them the benefit of the doubt and I'll see but it's an organization that I didn't enjoy working for and Betfair, everybody was really nice and really smart, same with everybody I met at They're really nice, really smart, really affable, friendly, nice people. But you set the culture slightly wrong and an organization can go a bit weird. Betfair was equally the same way, it felt wrong encouraging people to gamble more.

I've also turned down lots of work with, could do a lot in financial services with the payday loans companies as well because again, similarly there, they're talking about making loans easy for people and that's their whole thing. You get money easily and quickly and the reality is the reason you're getting your money easy and quickly is cus you're paying a fortune for it. And so yeah, I think you're right but it's up to us to decide if that business is worthy of our… That sounds really, what's the word I'm looking for, arrogant.

Marcus: Worthy.

Joe Leech: Worthy of us, but worthy, yeah.

Paul Boag: And you do have to make a moral decision, absolutely. I think the key mine is where I maybe would differ slightly from the prevailing view at the moment is that that's down to an individual designer to make that decision. And if you turned random work from a gambling company specialized in that, I wouldn't view you less in any way. It would just be a choice that you've made that is a choice that I wouldn't make. Does that make sense? So people that are working at, I don't have a problem with them working at for example. But that's just personal preference.

Joe Leech: But it's good for us to, if they do work at, just to say, "What are you guys up to? Is this right what you're doing here? [crosstalk 00:41:00] Do you agree with what you're doing?" There needs to be a foil just equally web professionals cus again, sponsor loads of the conferences I go to and speak at. There the prolific sponsor of the, huge supporter of the web industry as a whole. But, that needs to be kept in check slightly. People need to say, "You sure you're doing the right thing at this point? Are you sure that that's right?" But you're right, I agree, it is up to the individual designer, but it needs people like us and Mike to just keep saying keep people thinking about it. Because it's easy to start really small with only two items left like this you're looking at, that's how it starts. You see a small uplift in conversion from the scarcity effect of only two of these left.

That's where you start, like oh well that worked maybe we can do some more of that. And before you know it you've got 50 of these persuasive techniques on your site and yes you're earning more money, but at what cost?

Paul Boag: Yeah, and that's the key for me is you can argue about morality all you want, and everybody has slightly different views on morality. But I think it's more important to consider from a hard-nose business point of view and actually encouraging change in these organizations to start revealing the negative costs that are associated with these techniques. How it damages brand identity, how it creates buyers remorse, it leads to more cancellations more support queries, all of those kinds of things. But I do wanna just move on from this cus I don't wanna just kind of bash psychology and persuasion-

Joe Leech: Cus I'm with you, there's great stuff out there. I've used psychology in, help transform businesses by using it, so it kind of an amazing transformative effect if you choose the right way.

Paul Boag: Go on then, give me some examples of how psychology can be used in a positive way to improve businesses experiences, business brand identity, all that kind of stuff.

Joe Leech: There's two ways to look at it, so if we stay with something like

Paul Boag: Sure.

Joe Leech: A classic theory within psychology is the theory of mental models. And the theory of mental models is how we build models of the world around us. We've got a model of the world around us, and we take that model, and you apply it to new and interesting and different situations. So I take the example of going to Starbucks to order coffee. We all know how to order a coffee at Starbucks. You go in, you queue up, you order your coffee, you pay for your coffee, you collect the coffee, and you sit down. And then you contrast with that, and that's how we humans are built a mental model about how to order and buy coffee in the UK and the US.

We then take that mental model of how to drink coffee, and we take it to Parisian, say a café in Paris. What happens there is, you've ever been in that situation? I don't know if you've ever been there. You go to a sort of café like that and sometimes you leave and you leave without paying. You're like, "Oh! Have we paid yet? We haven't paid yet! I thought we paid!" And sometimes you're halfway down the street and you haven't paid. And that's a classic example of when mental models go a bit wrong. So again, obviously when you're buying and ordering a coffee at a coffee shop in or a café in Paris, you go and you sit down, the waiter brings you the menu, you order from the waiter, he brings your coffee, you drink your coffee, you ask for the bill, the bill comes you pay for it and you go.

But your mental model is very much in the Starbucks world of you've finished your coffee and you leave cus you paid right back when you ordered your coffee in the first place. And the mental model theory from psychology can have absolute transformative effects in terms of the way you can change a user experience. So good example would be back in travel again. So when people are booking travel, the mental model of how we do it is typically, if we're going away for a weekend, we'll say things like, "Let's go away for the weekend! Yeah, where should we go do you fancy the beach? Yeah the beach, somewhere warm would be really nice so maybe a city break. Oh yeah, that sounds nice. When should we go? What days a week can we get away?" What day does the weekend start? What day?

Paul Boag: Friday.

Joe Leech: Thursday? Sometimes Thursday? You can go away for the weekend from Thursday to Sunday can't you? Or Friday to Monday?

Marcus: Definitely yeah.

Joe Leech: Friday to Sunday? You know that's the thing, we'll go away for a long weekend, perfect. Let's go somewhere hot, yeah somewhere hot. You've got that mental model of how to book a holiday, you wanna go somewhere hot you wanna go away for the weekend, how far are you gonna go for the weekend? You gonna, how far would you travel for the weekend?

Marcus: Yeah, you're not gonna go that far are ya? [crosstalk 00:45:35]

Joe Leech: Give me an example, how far?

Marcus: You could go- [crosstalk 00:45:39]

Joe Leech: And how would you measure that? Would you measure that in miles?

Paul Boag: No, how long the flight is.

Marcus: Flight time.

Joe Leech: How long the flight is, exactly. Most people say, we'll go away for an hour or three hours, maybe one in three hours flight time away. That's how people book holidays. They're like oh lets go somewhere hot, we'll go away for a long weekend, and we'll go for three hours. And then when the reality of that mental model hits the … Runs through most travel sites they ask you for which city do you want to go to? Which destination do you want to go to? We need to know your start point and your end point. They need to know the date, they're like which date do you want to go on this DD/MM/YY and that would be the days that you would go.

There's a simple piece if psychology that could transform's experience rather than this persuasive crap they're doing. Is what if they just said show me places three hours away from London, or three hours away from Bristol, or three hours away from where I am. That's a fantastic way to search for somewhere. Show me hot places that are three hours away from where I am, I want to go maybe on the Thursday or the Friday and stay for two or three nights. That is the perfect way to design the travel website, not two beds left.

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Joe Leech: So that's the transformative effect is by looking at how people build mental models of the world around them and do this stuff and apply that to your stuff.

Paul Boag: So are there examples of that, that kind of quirks of human behavior that we should be taken more consideration of?

Joe Leech: Yeah, I mean that's on the big scale. So that's the big stuff, that's kind of a good way to transform a user experience is to get some more ideas, dare I use it, the word innovation in that stuff. It can go right down to, so again, within psychology we have two types of knowledge. We have declarative knowledge and we have procedural knowledge. Declarative knowledge is stuff like dates, capital cities, kings, name Henry VIII's third wife, who's Henry VIII third wife, do you know?

Paul Boag: No idea.

Joe Leech: How did she meet her end, Henry VIII's third wife?

Paul Boag: I can never remember this bloomin stupid rhyme, so I couldn't tell you.

Joe Leech: Alright, another one for you. The points of a compass, what are the points of the compass, how do you know what the points of a compass are?

Marcus: Never eat shredded wheat.

Paul Boag: Naughty elephants squirt water.

Joe Leech: We've got two ways of doing it so knowing which is east and west which is the hardest bit from neither points of the compass, that's declarative knowledge. It's pulling out that fact from your head is declarative. We as humans convert that into the other type of knowledge which is procedural knowledge. Which is a knowledge around flow. And so we use terms like 'never eat shredded wheat' to help us remember the points of a compass. Never eat, yeah North East South West is the order they go in. Never eat shredded wheat. We're converting the very difficult to remember declarative to the very easy to remember procedural. And we do this with everything that we do. Everything becomes a process and a flow. The way we remember how to do something is through a process and through a flow. So again, classically if you've ever had the situation where you've forgotten your pin number for the atm or cash machine, you ever forgotten the pin number?

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Joe Leech: Alright, what's the best way to remember the pin number? Is it start thinking in your head what the pin number is? What's the best way to do it?

Paul Boag: Either to write it down or alternatively to do something that's already memorable.

Joe Leech: Well, the best way to remember it, if you forget what your pin number is the best way for you to remember it if you're giving to somebody else, you say to somebody else, "Can you get some money out for me?"

"Yeah of course, what's your pin number?"

"Oh, I can't remember what my pin number is!"

Paul Boag: Oh! I see what you mean, yeah.

Joe Leech: Imagine yourself going through the steps of going to the cash machine, or even actually going to the cash machine. If you go through the steps in your head you've got … Alright the cash … That's classic procedural knowledge. You remember [inaudible 00:49:22] what your pin number is from the process of knowledge. Step one reminds you what step two is, which reminds you of step three and step three might be your pin number, step four, step five, step six. Everything that's encoded in our brains is encoded as part of a process or a sequence or a flow. So, when effectively we're trying to pull stuff out of our heads, we're rubbish at remembering declarative knowledge facts, but we're really good at remembering processes and flows. And so we take a good example of say designing a search box. Where would you expect to find a search box on a website?

Marcus: Top right.

Paul Boag: Top right.

Joe Leech: Top right, right. Intuitively, our procedural knowledge tells us to go top right to instigate a procedural knowledge flow of how we're gonna do it. You look for a text field, you look to type something in, you look for a button to press. Again, step one is to go to the top right, step two is to look for the form field and type something in, step three is to hit the button, step four is to go to the search results page. Classic procedural knowledge flow about how to do a search. Most people that use the internet are utterly familiar with how that works, until some fancy designer decides to remove the search button because it looks a lot cleaner without a search button there. And of course everyone knows how to hit return, the problem then comes, you've broken their procedural knowledge flow of how people search. There's no button there, so people don't know how to get to the next step. So, that flow of procedural knowledge has been broken.

So a good tip for designing interactions is to list out on a very basic level the procedural knowledge flow of undertaking that particular interaction. Be it search is the one I mentioned there, be it getting back to the home page, going to the contact us page, all of that stuff is to plot out on a micro level the procedural knowledge flow that people expect to go through. Design towards that, and that's gonna help you be a better designer. Far better than just going oh it's much cleaner now we've taken the search box out.

Paul Boag: So is that how you tend to start a project, is start by mapping out these procedural flows?

Joe Leech: Generally honestly I start bigger. I start with the mental model. So I'll start the mental model I talked about before so [crosstalk 00:51:28] going away for a weekend for three hours and I've come up with a very basic mental model. That statement I just talked about there, going away somewhere hot for the weekend for three hours and I use that then to base everything around in terms of design. So if you've got that initial mental model right, we're gonna be in a good place. Then when it comes down to the level of the interaction beneath it, then you sort of map out the individual steps of that interaction on a micro level based on the procedural knowledge of how somebody would expect that interaction to work. What buttons should look like, what color, what form fields should look like, keeping it really basic. So effectively you're getting the usability right with the procedural knowledge, experience right with the mental model theory.

Paul Boag: Wow. That's a really interesting way of approaching things, and it's not something I'd considered to be honest. We've messed up this show do you know, we haven't left any [crosstalk 00:52:21] I think we have, we need to start again. Cus we spent far too long on part two, we could do it. I think we're gonna have to return to this subject because I've got so many more questions and yet we're already 52 minutes in. So I think I'm going to have to wrap it up for now on that conversation. But I do want to get you back on Joe because there's a whole load of other stuff that I want to cover in regards to psychology, because I find it a really interesting area. And just the quirks of our behavior and the decision making that we make and how we go about making decisions is an enormously complicated area. But for now we shall call it a day.

I do wanna quickly talk about Fullstory, which is our second sponsor. Their a session recorder, now you might think to yourself why do I wanna be able to replay sessions, what is the value of that to me. And there are so many tools in our arsenal already that give us this kind of perception of how people are using projects. [inaudible 00:53:31] that we produce everything from analytics through to all kinds of different tools that are out there. But a lot of them tend to be kind of, give more general statistically accurate representation but nothing quite beats that visceral and personal understanding that is given from watching real users interact with your pages completely naturally. So session players can uncover all kinds of UX and general design issues that can't be easily sussed out either from a user interview or from stand in analytics and in fact even in some cases from usability testing. Because people behave differently when they know they're being watched etc.

So of all the session recorders out there, why Fullstory in particular? Well, that's because in my opinion it's the best session recorder out there. It's got the highest fidelity in its playback, which means it's recording every single event on the page. And you can search on absolutely every single event that's happening from what pieces of text the user is selecting to what their clicking on, the whole lot. So you can even see things like whether users have been furiously rage clicking on a button that hasn't reacted as they expected it to. And it's got all kinds of in depth insights that you can get really simply from even saying, ya know, show me everybody that's interacted with this CSS class for example. You can do all kinds of stuff.

So if you sign up for it today, you get a month free of their pro account. And then after that you can continue to use it for up to 1,000 sessions per month for absolutely free as long as you want to. When you set up an account there's no need to enter a credit card or anything like that. So you can, I often for example just use the 1,000 sessions to test a particular page or a particular issue I'm having on one part of the site. So you can do that by going to

I wanted to give you a little bit of kind of further research on the whole issue of psychology and encouraging people to take action. The first one, to be honest it's a bit of a plug, I'm running an online version of my persuasive design workshop that I run coming up beginning of May. Which is a live four-part workshop so it happens in four one and a half hour sessions over a period of a month. Lots of chance to ask questions, lots of chance to delve into everything from some of the interesting elements of human psychology all the way down to how to design a good call to action button that people actually spot and use. You can find out more about that at

The second one obviously is Joe's amazing book on the subject which you can get by going to I've written an article on calls to action in particular that's worth checkin out which is which kind of focuses more on visually design elements of designing a call to action that people actually notice and use. You might want to check out the brain lady on twitter. She's written some great books on various aspects of psychology and even trumps Joe in terms of qualifications, cus she's got a doctorate, don't ya know.

Joe Leech: Yeah she's great, she's a great lady.

Paul Boag: And then finally you might want to check out cards.ui/, which is a bit like my user experience cards, but looking at kind of, quirks of human behavior and psychology that may be useful to you as a designer. So that about wraps it up, Marcus do you have a joke for us?

Marcus: I do. This one's from Paul Vandendool, which I think is the correct way to pronounce it. From the slack channel, and it's kind of relevant to what day it was on Sunday. "I'm going to buy my mum a refrigerator for mother's day, I can't wait to see her face light up when she opens it."

Paul Boag: That is quite a good one, I quite like that one. But you didn't use my joke, Marcus.

Marcus: As I explained in my reply to you Paul, if I did it would be the second time it would've been on the podcast and it just proves that you never listen to a word I say.

Paul Boag: Oh really, we've done the beef stew joke before?

Marcus: Yeah, course we have.

Paul Boag: Oh. I like that joke.

Marcus: Has that ruined your day? Do it again, people will love it. We have a different audience every week.

Paul Boag: No, not gonna now. You've ruined it.

If you wanna see your joke featured on the podcast or indeed to go and find out my beef stew joke, you can join us on slack by going to Please, especially if you're a UX person, please join our slack channel. Because at the moment it's nothing but developers droning on about crap I don't understand. They're all … Oh, they just bore me senseless, they really do. I was teasing them about it recently, cus I don't understand at all what they're saying anymore. So, yeah, more UX people in our slack channel. Joe, where can people find out more about you?

Joe Leech: My website is or mr.joe on twitter.

Paul Boag: And also that covers, oh it doesn't cover hiring you as well, I wondered whether you had a set hire me site?

Joe Leech: That's all there, it's all on mrjoe, you can find if you wanna work with me I can help you apply psychology to your designs, you can also run workshops. In-house workshops for teams including psychology into your design process on there too, and of course my book's there as well. So it's all there at

Paul Boag: Lovely job. So next week we're gonna be looking at what the role of … Oh for crying out loud, after just what I said about slack, and it all being about developers, next week we're gonna have look at what the role of the developer is in interface design. That's gonna be fun isn't it? It will be. They are massively important, and that's why I kind of included it. But because I'm being grumpy about developers for no apparent reason. But no, I'm looking forward to it actually, we've got Aslan coming on the show Marcus, do you remember Aslan?

Marcus: Course I do, lovely man. Excellent, he does good jokes.

Paul Boag: Oh does he?

Marcus: Bring one or two along.

Paul Boag: Okay let's hope so. But for now, Joe thank you so much for coming on it was really good to talk to you yet again and [inaudible 01:00:34]

Alright, thank you very much and goodbye!