How to seduce your users with web design

Andy Budd kicked off the afternoon of Day 1 at An Event Apart 2009 in San Francisco.We all like being seduced.
Written by Andrew Mager, Inactive on

Andy Budd kicked off the afternoon of Day 1 at An Event Apart 2009 in San Francisco.

Andy Budd

We all like being seduced. Interaction on the web can take advantage of this idea.

There is a notion of "seductive interfaces". It's about surprise and delight. We are all seducers. We are doing it out of instinct.

This doesn't have to do with deviation, mind control, and trickery. It's not about the one-night stand; it's about forming a long-term relationship with the user.

Seductive interfaces

Step 1: The approach. First impressions really matter. 43% of women will make up their mind about a partner in the first 30 seconds. It takes men over a half an hour sometimes. This is the basis of speed-dating. Research has been shown that we make immediate reactions on just about everything, and we do it really quick.

Unwrapping a new iPod is like undressing your girlfriend for the first time.

Apple is the master of this. When you get a new iPod, you open up the packaging really slowly. Everything looks really nice. The packaging is perfect; so crisp. It makes you fall in love with the product before even using it.

If someone tells you not to judge a book by it's cover, you're gonna judge the book a lot harder on it's cover. We have a high value on looks.

If you're trying to seduce people, mystery works. That sense of allure brings you into the storyline and makes you want to know more all the time. The more mysterious you are, the more people want to learn about you. But don't be that guy. You know, that guy.

And don't be needy. Pickup lines don't work.

Pickup lines don't work

The aesthetic usability effect makes you think that everything that looks better makes you believe it's gonna be an awesome experience. Gowalla rocks this idea.

Andy Budd

Your site should be easy to get along with.

Ultimately, in that first approach, you need to finish your first date with a really good impression. Think about Moo.com, the business/fun card-maker. You can use all of their tools to build the most incredible personal products. When you finish using the product, you realize you've lost track of time. It justifies paying $20 for 100 little pieces of paper. The experience outweighs the cost.

Step 2 is the rapport. You need to build up the relationship. Good seduction professionals will elongate that process of building rapport. Tease the situation.

Be friendly and attentive. Have good manners. This is a staple of good usability.

You are much more likely to meet someone that has similar interests. Highlight the similarities by finding those shared interests and values.

You can't immediately seduce the person, so go after their friends. If their friends like you, the better chance you have. How does this apply to the web?

A lot of this comes down to "liking". You have to like the ethos of the website before you engage with it.

I like you

The success of Etsy revolves around the fact that people who have similar interests can connect with each other and exchange ideas in a marketplace. Last.fm is successful because it bubbles up similarities; it can find other users with similar musical tastes.

We are not making all decisions by ourselves. What other people are doing matter.

Testimonials are very important. Your homepage should have a bunch of commentary from others saying you kick ass.

The reason you laugh on a date at a movie is not to express internal humor... you want the other person to know it's okay to let yourself loose.

Surprise and delight can be powerful tools.

Most of seduction comes from particular language to generate an almost physical response. Get people talking about food; because the same part of the brain that is used to think about food is also used to think about sex. Get people excited.


Play hard to get. Don't show everything up front. It's about sparking the imagination and filing in the gaps of the user's minds. It's based on loss-aversion theory. If you've had something and it's taken away from you, you want it again.

The iPhone is a great seducer; every interface on it is sexy.

Everyone wants a "carousel" nowadays. They really engage the users; you can flirt with the page almost. Animations, rollovers; even though they are subtle, they still better than boring text.

Have a personality with your design. Be open to playfulness. Incorporate them into your 404 page. Put "fun" in functionality. Instead of doing a captcha, do something more fun like a tic-tac-toe game.

The idea of poking in Facebook has a vaguely sexual connotation. That element of mystery still gets us today, what does it mean? Seductive language is very powerful.


Instead of saying "buy it now", say "I want it" or "gimme".

Limit supply; tease your users. Spotify is the king of this.

There is a right time and a wrong time to seduce a user. You have to be a bit subtle. Let them play around; trust them.

Find a legitimate reason to get in touch with people. Don't be all stalky, but be around your users more. Join every possible social network because your users are hanging out there.

People form relationships when the benefit outweighs the cost. If people are giving you praise, and making you feel good, you are much more likely to spend time with them.

If you have a really painful signup process, you aren't gonna stick around. Websites today are like abusive relationships. Well, mainly just MySpace.

Reward your users. Foursquare has psychologically empowered their users to create valuable content on their website.


Build something that makes people learn and get better over time. As you start using a service, you should become an expert at it.

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