When Online Messages are Interactive, They're More Persuasive

Can a website's design help persuade readers of the page's message? Researchers think so, and they say it's all about how readers interact with the site.

It's more fun to touch and swipe — to interact with a site. Indeed, website design helps package a message nicely, but can it help persuade people?


Jeeyun Oh, an assistant professor of Communications and leader of a recent study, believes it does.

Oh says that interactivity adds an element of fun to browsing a page, which the results from his study have suggested may lead people to have a positive association with the message on the page.

To test this idea, Oh and his research team split up a group of 167 participants and asked them to sample one of six different pages (which included a control page) with an anti-smoking message. For example, one page had a drag-and-slide bar that had users interact with a series of images against smoking and another page had participants interact through links and breadcrumbs on the site. Before and after the experiment, researchers asked participants their thoughts on smoking.

Oh and his researchers found that more participants came away with a more positive feeling toward the anti-smoking message on the page when it was packaged in an interactive design, compared to the control page, but these designs influenced readers in different ways. Oh says the drag-and-slide bar “persuades people because they are having more fun browsing the website, which absorbs them, and creates more positive attitudes toward the message as well." While the links and breadcrumb version "persuades people by making users think more deeply about the message."

The co-author, S. Shyam Sundar, explained how this information could benefit web designers and developers in a press release, saying:

"Engagement is not one thing, and different types of interactivity tools trigger different types of engagement. If you want people to be absorbed in an activity or in content, then you give them tools that they can interact with by sliding or swiping.

If you add tools that make people call up information, rather than giving them things to play with, this lets them learn more about the content and explore the content, promoting a thoughtful kind of engagement."

Persuading through design can be taken to a professional and social level, too, as Jane McGonigal explains. Social games that engage us in cooperative missions evoke positive emotions like curiosity, optimism, and creativity.


Big Think Edge is a video-driven platform that catalyzes happiness and performance in professional environments by cultivating leadership, creativity, and self-knowledge. Learn more about Big Think Edge.

Read more at Science Daily.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

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