persuasive design
Back to articles Back to articles

How to Build Persuasive Design into Your App

Tyler Tennant August 24, 2017

Persuasive design probably sounds scary. The word “persuasive” probably makes you a little uncomfortable. It might make you think “deception” or “manipulation,” or otherwise some word that describes a lack of control, something for which humans have an innate need.

This is why it’s important to balance persuasive design with the human desire for control. Persuasive shouldn’t be a pejorative for you. Just think about it. If you’re not persuasive, how will you ever convince people that your product is what they need? How will you convince them to download your app?

But at the same time, you’ve got to be careful. You don’t want your persuasive design to overshadow the human engagement users have to such an extent that they feel like you’re in control of their interaction with the environment you’ve created.

Persuasive design is, then, a combination of taking into account your users’ emotional, mental, physical, psychological, behavioral needs to construct an environment that they can then navigate through their own free will (if free will exists at all, but that’s for another blog post). It’s about creating an interface that is visually, sonically (if you want to use sound at all), and haptically engaging, created with a touch of emotional anticipatory design, that gives the user a sense of control while persuading or guiding them to reach a certain end goal.

So how can you implement persuasive design into your app?

Mimesis, Persuasive Design, and Social Proof

Humans naturally imitate the behaviors of other humans and are more likely to go along with something if there are others who have shown interest or a desire for your app.

If someone wants something, you’re likely to want it too. That’s why the “Users who bought X also bought Y” suggestions of Amazon are so powerful: they’re suggestions that people just like you were also desiring this other specific thing.

Testimonials are going to be an extremely powerful tool, which is why it’s important to consider incentivizing leaving reviews. Maybe they get a coupon or access to a new part of your app, or at the very least an electronic thank you, if they leave a review.

People are much more likely to desire your app if they see that 500 other people have enjoyed it. On the flip side, if you’ve got one review, even if it’s good and especially if it’s bad, you’re not going to be too likely to push your product as well. If you utilize usability testing, you can ask your first couple of users to leave you reviews so that you can post those up and get off to a strong start.

Build Trust and Loyalty

The best way to build somebody’s commitment to a brand is by offering them something upfront, even if they’ve done nothing to earn it. Now, you’ll want to make sure that you create a system where the more users use your app, the more they get, but people will feel confident that they’ve made the right choice in choosing you if they get something for their efforts of at least downloading your app.

Loyalty programs are especially important. Previews can be exciting too. Consider how iTunes allows users the chance to hear songs before buying, how Spotify and Pandora provide a free service with commercials to users, and how Amazon allows free book and music previews to its potential customers. They’re definitely going to be interested in supporting a brand that has given them something upfront.

Consider your freebies an investment.

Offer up some coupons for your product. If you have a social media presence, make sure it’s constantly updated and strong and that you’re willing to connect to your users through it in fun and innovative ways.

Always be available to respond to any concerns that users might have. Have stellar customer service. People are more likely to accept that you’ve got their best interests in mind when you show concern and care for them upfront and as often as they need it. They, then, are much more likely to be persuaded by the guide or goals you’ve lined out for them.

Make Decisions Easier

Think about how you use your phone. You open up the mail app and you push down to get it refreshed. You select all the spam and archive or trash it. Then, you open up Facebook, check for notifications, scroll for a bit to see if anything attracts you, and then you might move on to Twitter.

People make quick judgments based on the visual engagement they have with apps, and they don’t spend a whole lot of time musing over decisions. That’s why it’s important to provide a quick and easy visual design that guides them to where they need to go. Users’ hands and fingers may navigate through the app and need a little bit of fun, but users’ eyes make the ultimate commitment to buy your product, keep using your app, or desire your service.

Utilize information hierarchies to give them the most important information upfront, make navigation to each part of the app easy, and make sure your microinteractions are top-notch (and invisible).

Give them a little bit of positive reinforcement every once in a while to help them know that they’re making the right decision so that they feel supported. A little “thanks for your interest” or “great job” or “new deals just for you” can’t hurt.


It’s your responsibility to try to convince them that they need what you provide, but that it’s largely their idea, and that they’re in control of choosing whatever it is you’re pushing.

Basically, it’s not about tricking them into doing something. It’s about helping guide them to where they want, choose, and desire to go.

Let's build together.

We'd love to hear about your product or idea.

Get in touch