Behind You! Design Drives Online Sales

Chinwag Psych's very own Nathalie Nahai has given us a taster of what she'll be talking about at the conference. Have a read about the importance of a website's design and how it can influence what customers buy.

The background image and colour of your site can prime consumers, claims new research.

With a boom in commercial websites and the range of products on offer, how do we decide what to buy?

If you’re an avid reader of design blogs, chances are you’ll know the theory that a website’s colour scheme can influence its users. What you may not know is that a website’s design can even affect what products you choose to buy.

Most of us consider ourselves rational – when we decide to buy a product for the first time, we like to think that we’ve weighed up our options, done our research, and subsequently arrived at an informed, logical decision. The reality is quite different.

Online Persuasion

From user ratings and endorsements to scarcity sales, the evidence suggests that when it comes to shopping, we’re far from immune to hidden persuaders.

To test this, a group of researchers manipulated the background colours and images of a web page and reported the results[1].

The Nudge

When users were asked to choose between two products in the same category (such as an Audi or a Lexus) they found that visitors who had been primed on money (the website’s background was green with pennies on it) looked at price information longer than those who had been primed on safety. Similarly, those primed on comfort looked at comfort information longer than those primed on money.

What’s surprising is not that this effect was found to exist, but that it even held true when the user was a seasoned expert in that particular category of product.

Priming for Profits

If any visitor can be primed to change their search behaviours and subsequent choices simply by using the appropriate background image, the implications to online business could be huge.

For instance, if you’re selling a washing machine that rates poorly on energy consumption but runs a fast cycle, you could potentially prime your visitors for speed and influence them into comparing the speed of your machine against the speed of others. Getting your consumers to pay attention to speed and not price could result in greater sales for you, and a blow to your competitors.


Although online shopping enables us to search for products more easily and with greater autonomy, the fact that our buying behaviours can be dramatically influenced by subtle changes in our online environment is sobering.

Whether you’re a boffin or a newbie, when it comes to online shopping it might pay to consider all the features that are important to you before you buy – otherwise you might come away with a bit more than you bargained for.

Nathalie will be speaking at Chinwag Psych in London on May 9

// Buy Tickets now

[1] R. C. Martin, K. R. Coyier, L. M. VanSistine, and K. L. Schroeder (2013). Anger on the Internet: The Perceived Value of Rant-Sites. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 16(2), pp. 119 - 122.

Photo (cc) FindYourSearch