Fundamentals of persuasive websites [Online Course]

Fundamentals of persuasive websites

Designing and running websites can be incredibly frustrating. You see a large number of users visiting your site, and yet, so few of them take action. It's maddening!

This introductory course will teach you how to understand better the ways users think and leverage that to encourage them to complete your calls to action.

Note: this is not a design course. It’s a website strategy course - what should go on your website.

After just 4 sessions, you'll be able to

  • Understand psychology and how it influences our decisions.
  • Elicit trust through your website.
  • Build a user interface that persuades users to take action.
  • Write compelling copy.
  • Evaluate an existing webpage and identify ways it could be more persuasive.
  • Create compelling calls to action.

Paul Boag, Founder @ Boagworks Ltd


This course is right for you if...

  • You run or build e-commerce sites and are looking to raise your conversion rate and average order value
  • You have landing pages that are failing to convert.
  • You would like to increase the number of people signing up to your newsletter.
  • You are keen to see your website generate more quality leads.

In fact, this course is for anybody who wants to encourage users to take specific actions when visiting your site!

This course is NOT for you if...

  • You already have extensive experience in sales and marketing techniques.
  • You are looking for quick fix persuasion techniques, no matter its impact on customer satisfaction.
  • You are not interested in building long term relationships with your clients.
  • You are unwilling to consider improvements that extend beyond changes to the user interface.


This class will give you all the tools and techniques... need to understand what motivates your users, and how to turn that into specific changes you can make to your site.

These changes will allow you to motivate users into action, without alienating them in the process. By adopting this kind of ethical approach to persuasion, you can increase conversion, while also encouraging repeat business and word of mouth recommendation.

But most of all, you'll learn to avoid investing heavily in your site only to see disappointing results.


About your instructor:
Paul Boag

Paul is a leader in digital strategy and user experience design. He has been working with organisations such as Centrica, Shell and Doctors Without Borders for over 20 years. Through consultancy and training, he helps businesses make better use of digital technologies. He helps them engage with today’s connected consumers.

Paul is also a well-respected figure in the digital sector. Author of five books including Digital Adaptation and User Experience Revolution. He also writes for industry publications including Smashing Magazine, Sitepoint and Net Magazine.

Finally, Paul speaks around the world on user experience design and digital transformation. Alongside speaking, he also hosts the award-winning user experience podcast over at


What people have to say about Paul and this course


I deal with landing page optimization, quality score, and ad copy on a daily basis as a PPC specialist. The course is very hands-on with great examples and case studies ( is my favorite). Highly recommended!

Daniel Pirciu, PPC Specialist @ E.ON

Paul has superior abilities in communications and of understanding the user experience, in addition to excellent technical web design skills. He has a deep understanding of the way in which organizations are structured and therefore is able to provide the best possible solutions.

Andrew Mcconell, Information Officer @ University of Glasgow

I only wish I’d worked with him earlier in my career. His ability to understand and break down problems and offer advice, drawing on his many years of experience is unrivaled.

Richard Hirst, Head of Web @ Queen Mary’s University


In just 4 sessions, you’ll be able to:

  • Adopt an approach to persuasion that doesn’t resort to manipulation and alienating potential customers.
  • Apply the psychology of human thinking to improve your conversion rate.
  • Write compelling copy that engages with users and encourages them to act.
  • Craft calls to action that users feel compelled to click.

Your course curriculum:

Fundamentals of persuasive websites

Class 1

How to approach persuasion the right way

There are compelling techniques available to us with which we can persuade users to act. However, using these methods are not without their dangers. Use them unwisely, and you can alienate users and damage your brand. In this session, you look at how to approach persuasion in the right way.

Class 2

Mastering the psychology behind being more persuasive

To persuade people to act you first need to understand their motivation. In this second session, you will learn how people think with an introduction to human psychology.

Class 3

The secrets that will enable you to write more persuasive copy

Compelling copy is often the key to persuasion, yet most online copy is uninspiring and does not resonate with the audience. In this session, you will discover how to write compelling copy that motivates people to take action.

Class 4

Make your calls to action more clickable

All too often, conversion rates are damaged when calls to action are overlooked or undervalued. In this session, you will be taught the design principles that will ensure users spot your calls to action and how to make them compelling.

You will also get introductory video lessons

In addition to classes, you’ll get access to snack-sized video lessons to bring you up to speed on the course topics.

In this lesson, Paul will advise on how to avoid falling into the trap of focusing so heavily on customer acquisition that you neglect the loyal customers you already have.

In this lesson, Paul outlines what to look for in quantitative research and gives some pointers on conducting meaningful qualitative research.


      <input type="button" class="search_result_prev" value="
    Hi my name is Paul Boag and I'm going to be your tutor on an upcoming course about persuasion. Of course, it's only possible to persuade somebody of something if you really understand them. You need to know what questions they have, what challenges they're facing, and what objections they might have to acting. You need to understand what they care about and what motivates them and that means you need to do some user research, but where do you start when it comes to user research if you've really never done anything like that before? There are two types of research available to you.

    These are qualitative
    and quantitative. Quantitative research focuses on analyzing data to better understand user behavior, while qualitative on the other hand, is about interacting directly with users and having in-depth conversations with them. So let's look first at quantitative research. When it comes to this kind of research, a good place to start is by looking at your web analytics. What pages users are looking at and what questions those pages answer. That'll give you an indication of what users actually care about.

    Also, pay attention to the search
    terms people enter into your website. These search terms give you a clear indication of what users want to know. Another useful technique when it comes to this kind of research is to run a survey asking users to share pertinent information about themselves will help you build up a better picture of who they are. Information such as what questions they have, what pain points they might be experiencing, and what their ultimate goal is; as well as some basic information about themselves as well. Social media also gives us another rich source of insights into our users.

    By looking at those
    who follow you on social media, you can build up a detailed picture of who they are and what they want. Although quantitative research is very useful, you can only take it so far. Having data that defines our users is one thing, but meeting with them is quite another. It's only when you start personally talking to users that you truly, if we're honest, begin to understand them. Neither should this be a one-off experience. It's generally accepted that people involved in a project should be meeting with their target audience a minimum of two hours every six weeks.

    These sessions can eventually be focused
    primarily on usability testing. However when we first start to engage with users, we should really be focusing on understanding them better. In particular, attempt to understand what questions or tasks users want to complete on your website, how they feel during these interactions; especially not just with your website, but with your product and services generally, and what influences their decision making process; what pain points they're hoping that your company will be able to help them with, and finally what their ultimate goal is.

    Even this basic information can help
    us create what's called an empathy map of our target audience. An empathy map is similar in many ways to a persona, but with a particular focus on what questions a user has. Of course the downside of an empathy map is that it is a single snapshot in time. In truth, the user feels different at different points within their experience and also, has different questions. That's why it's often beneficial to create a customer journey map. A customer journey map will outline the various stages that the user passes through in their interaction with your company and identify key information that they want at each step of the way.

    So before you dive into my course
    on persuasive design, I first encourage you to get to really know your users. Spend some time with them and build up some data about them as well and maybe turn that into a customer journey map or an empathy map. Once you've done this, you'll find it much easier to persuade your users to take action.



    More reading on mapping experience

    Customer journey mapping resources

    Customer journey map examples (from UX Fika)


    Create a customer journey map or an empathy map

    People will always pick the path of least resistance. In this lesson, Paul will teach you different ways to reduce friction on your site that optimize your user’s ease in taking action.

        <input type="button" class="search_result_prev" value="
      Hi my name is Paul Boag and I'm going to be your tutor on an upcoming course about persuasion, but even before we get to that I want to share with you the single best way you can get users to act. Make it easy. We're often so busy trying to convince people with clever copy and flashy graphics that we fail to make the experience as friction-less as possible. It's important to remember that people always pick the path of least resistance.

      They will even pay a premium
      for a digital service that will save them time over the competition. Of course to make that experience friction-less we first need to discover those points of friction, and that's where usability testing comes in. Many think that usability testing is a luxury that they can't afford, that it's time consuming to make happen and expensive, involving usability experts and special usability labs. In truth it doesn't need to be nearly that complicated.

      People also worry that they have to test
      with a lot of people, all of which exactly match the audience who is going to use their product or service, but that too is unnecessary, at least when you're getting started. The most important thing you can do is to test often. The more often you test, the more problems you'll find and the more friction-less you can make that experience. With that in mind, I recommend scheduling to test with three users every month on the same day. That way it just becomes a part of your normal working month and you could just test whatever you happen to currently be working on.

      Those three people could be anybody outside
      of the company who isn't involved in the product. Often I tend to use family members and friends. Test sessions will last about 40 minutes, and that means that you can test three people in a single morning and have time left over between sessions to make some notes. After the test session we all sit down together and discuss the problems that we encounter and how we can go about fixing them. As for the sessions themselves, well they aren't rocket science to be honest. Basically all you need to do is ask users to complete some tasks and tell you what they're thinking as they do it. If you don't have anything sufficiently advanced yet to do that kind of testing, then just show them some sketches or design comps and ask them what they would click on to complete a particular task.

      The main thing that you're looking for
      is to get them to tell you what it would be that they are going to do next so that you can get an idea of whether they're heading in the right direction. Sure there's a lot more to usability testing than that, but even something that simple will provide you with some incredibly valuable insights. That said, I do have one word of warning. Be careful not to lead users with the wording of the tasks. For example, try and avoid the words that appear in the interface, otherwise you're going to make it too obvious to users as to what they should do.

      Also, keep asking them what
      they're thinking. If they don't speak aloud then you're only getting half of the story at the end of the day. There is so much more I could say about usability testing but to be honest, that's a pretty solid start. One more tiny piece of advice I would give you is not to limit yourself to those monthly sessions. Any time two people disagree about something on the project, suggest testing. When you're unsure of what direction to take, just test. Just grab anybody outside of the project and see what their preference would be.

      Always use users
      to gain inspiration and to mediate with your disagreements. I promise you that if you can make your digital services easy to use you will already have a distinct advantage over your competition in persuading them to do business with you. A difficult to use website or app is the single biggest barrier stopping users from responding to your call-to-action.



      Identify points of friction on your site.

      Test with three users. What tasks would you have them do? What are some “leading words” you would avoid using?



      Show off your new skills: Get a certificate of completion

      Once you watch all the classes, pass a test to get CXL certified in the fundamentals of persuasive websites.

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