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Neuro Web Design Review:

📄 Contents

  1. Use Pictures and Stories to Capture and Hold Attention, Engage Empathy
  2. Use Social Validation
  3. Use Reciprocity
  4. Use Community
  5. Limit the Number of Choices
  6. Summary
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Susan Weinschenk, author of Neuro Web Design: What Makes Them Click? analyzes the website of an international charitable organization. By making a few changes in the site design, she suggests, the group could increase the amount of good they're already doing for the world.
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If you're like me, you probably have some favorite charities that you love. One of my favorites is FINCA International. FINCA is a microlending organization that sets up "village banks" all over the world, with local people, and then makes "micro" loans ($50 or $100) to help those people start or expand a business. This strategy allows people to pull themselves out of poverty.

FINCA has an extensive website that obviously required a lot of effort. But by making some changes to the site, using more of the principles in Neuro Web Design: What Makes Them Click?, the website could be more persuasive—and thereby would get FINCA's message out to more people, more persuasively, and bring in more donations as a result.

Let's take a look at what FINCA is doing well (from a Neuro Web Design point of view) and what could make the website more powerful and persuasive.

Use Pictures and Stories to Capture and Hold Attention, Engage Empathy

Photos capture attention. Depending on the images in the photos, they can engage many parts of the brain. You can use photos at a website to get the attention of the midbrain (the emotional part of the brain) and the old brain (the part of the brain that's concerned with survival, danger, sex, and food).

The FINCA site uses many colorful photos, but could use them more effectively. First, let's look at the home page (see Figure 1).

Figure 1

Figure 1 delete

The first thing you notice is that the site includes pictures on the home page, and that's a good thing. But let's take a closer look at the pictures, as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2

Figure 2 delete

Pictures are powerful drivers for our behavior and emotions, but they're more powerful if the people in the pictures connect with us; for example, if they appear to be making eye contact. In the picture at the top of Figure 2, the two people are not looking out of the screen at us—they're looking away. These pictures would engage the midbrain and old brain more directly if the people in the pictures looked at us.

The text on the top picture is also hard to read because it consists of mostly white letters on a mostly light-colored background. But if you look closely you can see that it says "FINCA's microlending programs bring results... increased incomes, more nutritious food, children in school instead of working." There are two problems with this text (well, three if you count using the wrong color for the text):

  • The picture shows a child who is not in school—it looks like the child might actually be working. The image doesn't match the text. Is this a family that has been helped, or is this a family that needs help? It's not clear.
  • The picture has text written on it, but the text is not about the people in that picture.

Stories are powerful, and pictures that tell a story are even more powerful. In the picture at the top of the page, it's hard to tell what the people are doing, and the words on the picture aren't about the picture, so there isn't really a story to be told.

The last problem with this particular picture is that you can't click on the picture to get a detailed story about the people in that picture. You can get details on clients at a different place on the website, but you should be able to get the full story of the people pictured by clicking on the picture, and it's not set up that way.

Throughout the site are more photos, most of which show happy people around the world. Happy photos are good, but the site misses an opportunity to engage the old brain. Having photos of people in trouble, in danger, in poverty would engage the old brain and compel action to donate.

Research shows that when people read a story about other people, certain parts of the brain are activated that can instigate a feeling of empathy. This empathy can then spur the viewer to act. The inside pages of the FINCA website have great client stories with lots of detail, but those stories are hard to find. If they were more prominent, the site would be more persuasive.

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