Make your website more engaging using a sticker


April 27, 2023

If I would ask you to erect a wooden board in support of a “Drive safe” campaign in your yard I can imagine you being less than eager. On the other hand, if I would just ask you to put a small sticker on your window that is something I can see many of us agreeing to do. The surprising part is that if you agreed to the sticker and in a week I ask you to put up a wooden board it is much more likely that you will agree on it. How much more likely? Turn’s out around 4 times as likely.

This is known as “foot in the door” approach and it exploits something known as Consistency bias. Marketers and salespeople have been using this and other biases for a long time now to improve sales, but with the world becoming more digital it is time for us web developers to get up to speed on these topics as well.

So what are biases

Let’s think about 2 scenarios most of us have experienced.

In the first one you are 18 and about to pick which college/university/first job to chose. This is a decision that will shape the rest of your life. You weight all the pros and cons. Collect additional information. Reflect upon your experiences thus far and your core values. Maybe you seek additional perspectives from your family and friends. Finally, after running over all possible options, you are still kind of shaky but you made a choice and you are sticking with it.

The second scenario might be as important in the life of a young adult. You are buying a new bottle of shampoo. You enter the store pick a bootle in 5 seconds, pay, and go home for your earned relaxing shower. You either took the bootle you always take, one that has nice colors, or maybe you saw the commercial and it implanted itself in your brain. Maybe it was a completely different equally silly reason.

We would like to think that all of our decisions are the result of us considering all the available information to make the best decision for us. But the reality is that in a world so filled with information we would deplete our mental energy way to fast if we would address everything as scenario one. The truth is that most decisions are somewhere between these 2 scenarios. And as we are getting closer to the second more of our decision making is guided by these mental shortcuts, also called cognitive biases.

When it comes to websites we rarely put much energy into how we interact with them. Designers make sure we don’t have to. As soon as we are expected to engage in a higher level of mental activity (even if it means filling a long form) we tend to get discouraged and quit. Potentially we are missing out on opportunities that would actually interest us because of suboptimal design choices. Using the knowledge of human decision making, and designing our sites to play into those thinking shortcuts can go a long way in boosting conversion and improving UX. Luckily there are more than 150 biases to chose from (according to Wikipedia).

Curse of knowledge

Let’s kick this off with a more general one. When you really think about it, doesn’t it feel that when you were just starting out in the world of coding and designe, understanding the end-users came kind of easier? This is basically the curse of knowledge — the better informed you are the harder it is to place yourself in the shoes of the less knowledgable (also known as your users). This becomes especially apparent if you spend a long time in a very specific niche i.e. you have been designing webshops for 5 years.

Now, this is not to say that experience is a bad thing, far from it, but occasionally it will make you design too complicated/technical sites. So, especially when designing completely new features and functionalities, having a less experienced person test it before putting it out might be a good idea. This is something to think about when building QA teams in your company as well, having a mix of people with different experience levels will prove optimal in the long run.

Pro-Innovation Bias

Fans of the popular series “How I met your mother” will be well aware of Barney’s “one” rule, that perfectly sums up what this bias is about.

Wait for it

Innovation and change almost always carry a certain amount of optimism with them (why would we change things if we expect the end result to be worse). This optimism can mask weaknesses and flaws we would usually see. So every designer should be aware that while their new design will more often than not look and feel better to them, the general public might disagree. Like mentioned before a good mixture of fresh eyes should help avoid this pitfall. Bonus points if the testers aren’t aware of what is the “new” design.


Is the height of the tallest redwood more or less than 350 meters? What is your guess how high is the tallest redwood?

The mean of answers to questions raised this way is around 250 meters. But if we change the number in the first question to 55 meters the mean drops significantly to 85 meters— almost 3 times a difference.

This comes from a famous study that was replicated numerous times. If you are not an expert on something you will have a tendency to rely too heavily on the first information you get — this is known as anchoring.

The user that comes to your site has just a rough idea of how much service X should cost. It is your job to anchor their expectations and give them a frame from which to value your proposition. For example:

Clearly the intention here is for users to first see $250/mo price. Even more effective would have been to arrange the cards in the reverse order since we are scanning pages from left to right. As the user is scanning further the $50/mo will feel much cheaper. So while highlighting strongly that you have a free plan might seem like you are coming off modest, in most cases, it will just look like you are overcharging on your other plans.


This post has offered merely an introduction to how the world of psychology meets web design. Biases affect how we think and act. They are still often an overlooked part when thinking in terms of UX. The internet is full of additional resources for everyone looking to take their design game to the next level. I will definitely revisit this subject as I personally learn and get to test out more stuff.

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