If you’ve got a website, you’re trying to sell something or get people to engage with you. The goal of your site is to convince your visitors that you are the best person for them to give their hard earned dollars or that you are the best person to help them get whatever it is that they want.

But how do you do that?

You do it by providing stellar products, amazing services, sharing social proof and great testimonials, and….taking advantage of and applying some basic psychology in your website’s design.

 psychology in web design

If you didn’t know this about me, I love psychology and actually taught AP Psych for five years. I also read a ton of non-fiction related to psych. I find it fascinating, so let’s apply some of my nerdy hobby to your website, shall we?

Psychology Principle #1 – The Foot in the Door Technique

This is actually a classic sales technique used the world over. It says that if you can get somebody to take a risk and do or purchase something small, then you can get them to eventually “go big.”

Why do you think car salesmen encourage your to sit in a new car? That’s getting their foot in the door. Then, you take it on a drive, and ultimately, you buy it.

Starbucks and Costco use this technique all the time when they set out little samples of “free” tastes. What happens after you have your taste? Your tummy rumbles and you buy whatever it is you just sampled.

I’ll explain how we’ll apply this principle to your website as soon as I’m done explaining the next principle.

Psychology principle #2 – The Mere Exposure Effect

The Mere Exposure Effect says that merely by exposing someone to something, they become more comfortable with it and ultimately learn to like and trust it. For example, if you want a two year old to try a new food, like a vegetable, you don’t shove it down their throats or punish them for not eating it, you just keep putting it on their plate.

At first, they won’t go for it. It’s new. It’s different. It’s green! But keep setting it on their plate until the “newness” wears off, and eventually, it becomes familiar, safe, and possibly even “likeable.”

For another example, think of a band like Journey, or a rock star, like Bon Jovi. They’re both still producing music, but can you name any of their new songs? I can’t, but I can start singing all the words to either “Don’t Stop Believing” or “It’s My Life,” right now.

Why? Because they’re familiar. I’ve been exposed to them over and over.

Do I love these artists because I love that music or because I’ve heard them a thousand times? The Exposure Effect says it’s because I’ve heard them so much!

How do we take advantage of this psychology in your web design?

Psych in Action on Your Website

First, think about small actions you can get your visitors to do when they get to your site.

Strategy #1 – Add a link and instructions in the body of every page directing visitors to your next page whether that’s your Work With Me page, a contact form, or your purchase page.

The very smallest action someone can take on a site is to click a link and look at another page. In order for them to do this, you need to:

a) provide a link to where YOU want them to go

b) explain WHY they ought to go there!

This goes back to your sitemap and navigation. What goal do you have for each page? Where do you want them to go? How are you going to get them there? You’ve got to provide the instructions and the tools to get there.

For example, if your goal is to get people to sign up for a course you’ve created, then on your homepage, you’ll link to your courses page, which will link to each individual course sales page where they can purchase your product with a clear BUY or ENROLL button. You will also have those links on your blog post pages, probably in the sidebar.

Remember to help people buy from you! Make it easy for them to give you their money!! 🙂 That might sound crass, but this is business.

In another example, if you want people to contact you for an initial consultation/inquiry, then you’ll guide people through your site to achieve that goal. You will have a direct links to your Work With Me page where you might put a form for their initial contact.

As you’re planning out your pages, remember that your funnel, or how you’re directing people through your site, are crucial, and you want them to be able to easily find what they’re looking for and figure out if you’re the perfect person to solve their problems.

You are, of course, so communicate that in your copy, and let them know how to hire you through your sales funnels and page structure.

Strategy #2 – Add email optins to every main page, above the fold which means the area that they see before they start scrolling down.

The next “level” of engagement, after clicking a link, would be getting a visitor to give you their email address. This is a low-risk behavior, and hopefully they’re going to get something out of it, like a coupon for your products or a free email-course or helpful checklist.

You can also add optins in places that make sense. You might have one in the middle of a page if it “fits” there with your copy. You’ll want them in your sidebar and possibly in the footer.

Once you’ve got their email, you can take advantage of the mere exposure effect. You don’t want to bombard them with emails, but you can now land in their inbox where they can begin to see what you’ve got and get to know you. You can start converting them into a customer merely through “exposing yourself” to them on a regular basis through email marketing (metaphorically speaking, of course!).

Strategy #3 – Consider adding a blog with comments enabled and a “related posts” plugin.

Another small action a visitor can take is to put a comment on a blog post or a social media post, but in order to get this engagement, you need to remember to ask for it! Get your “foot in the door.” Once they’ve taken any steps, they’re in your funnel. Sure they might fall out, but as you respond to their comments or send them emails, every engagement takes advantage of the mere exposure effect.

In order to design your site to take advantage of this, you’ll need to have a blog. The final lines in every blog post will be to give them something to comment on or share.

You can also provide a list of “related posts” for visitors. If they got to the bottom of one post, then give them the option to read another!

My favorite plugin for this is “Contextual Related Posts” which is a free plugin you can find in the WordPress plugin repository. To install it, go to the dashboard of your website.

Click on Plugins, and Add New.

In the search bar, search for “Contextual Related Posts” and click “Install.” Then, click activate.

Once it’s installed, click on “Settings” and you’ll see “Related Posts” in the menu. Click on “Related Posts.” There are quite a few options in this page to style the related posts. Honestly, you can ignore most of them. It works great right out of the box, but you can scroll through them to check them out. You can choose how many posts to display, whether or not you want to show images,


As you’re setting up or redesigning your website, remember using psychology in web design can increase conversions and engagement. This is NOT manipulation; it’s basic human nature. We are more comfortable taking small steps before we take big steps, and we also feel more comfortable with people and things the more we see them.

Use can use these principles throughout your site. I’ve given you the suggestions to use them by providing clear Calls to Action on each page to get visitors to take small steps, provide a variety of email optins throughout your site, and provide an opportunity for them to read more of your content with the Related Posts plugin.

Where have you applied these principles on your site? Or where do you plan to?

Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments (And that’s it right there – the foot in the door technique in action!) 🙂




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