Persuasive Web: Where Psychology Meets Conversion

Interactivity – The Cure for the Common Cold and World Hunger?

Posted in Studies on Persuasion by persuasiveweb on August 6, 2009

interactive07What is interactivity, and how can it help you persuade users on your website? Well, scholars define it thus:


  • Coyle & Thorson, 2001: A structural element of the medium
  • McMillan, Hwang & Lee, 2003: A perception variable in the mind of the user
  • Ha & James, 1998: A multidimensional construct


Um… wha-?

Let’s try a definition that’s a bit more… tangible. 🙂 Interactivity is the action that takes place between users, as [ostensibly] humans, and the computer. At its most exaggerated, interactivity on the Web is, like, World of Warcraft, where you’re playing a game “with” the computer… not to mention the millions of other players super-glued to WoW worldwide. 🙂 Interactivity’s most common form is a link on a page… or even the opening of your web browser. 

The more you get people to interact with your site, the more interactive it is. And interactivity is very, very good for persuasion.

Not only does interactivity engage the senses and stimulate the mind, but it’s also been proven to solve world hunger! …No. Okay. Not quite.

It has, however – in all honesty – been proven to improve impressions of politicians on their websites. That is, a 2003 study by Sundar et al., referenced in a 2006 paper by Wise, Hamman and Thorson, found that “increased interactivity on a political website led to more positive impressions of a political candidate and higher levels of agreement with the candidate’s policy positions” (p.28). So it doesn’t directly solve world hunger… but if that now-elected politician ends hunger, then interactivity kinda helped, no? 🙂 

Why is interactivity persuasive?
Hard to say… but we can guess! We know that, to persuade someone, it’s good to get them nodding with you. Hence the success of great DM pieces by brilliant copywriters like Schwartz, where the writing asks the readers questions that they can’t help but nod along with… and, soon enough, all that nodding tricks your mind into believing that you actually do want a lifetime supply of super-absorbent shammies. In clicking on a link, expanding a div-tag, hitting ‘play’ on a video demo, users are actually nodding along with you. You’ve offered them the chance to do something, and they’re doing it. 

We also know that people like playing. Playing can be very persuasive. So, if you put a cool quiz, a poll or a fun YouTube video of a cute little cat on your site, you’re inspiring interactivity & play… which equals persuasion. 

So give it a shot! Run an A/B test today. 


PS: Apologies for the lengthy absence. The 30 Days of Persuasion absolutely exhausted us. We’ve since been asleep for five weeks straight.


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