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CXL Institute’s Digital Psychology and Persuasion Minidegree Review (Part 1 of 12)

I believe in lifelong learning–I’m constantly looking for ways to improve my skills in web design and digital marketing. And when it came to learning providers, CXL Institute was an obvious choice.

I decided to take their Digital Psychology and Persuasion Minidegree because I want to get better at understanding people and how they think and behave digitally. This will in turn help me get better at making websites and copy and get higher conversion rates.

Psychology is something any marketer or designer would benefit to learn more about. By understanding human behavior–what people want, what people need, etc.–you are able to effectively market to them and thus persuade them. I think this is especially true today in the digital world because of all the noise constantly trying to grab our attention.

Having no psychology background (unless you count the three-unit Psychology 101 course I took back in college), I didn’t know much about the psychological principles you can apply to improve websites and optimize for conversions.

I’m currently trying to change that with the help of this Minidegree. I’m really excited to be doing it. And since I was given a scholarship, I will be writing one article per week for the next twelve weeks about it.

Allow me to share my thoughts on it as I go through it.

The first track of this Minidegree is Psychology Foundations, where psychological principles that drive human behavior are taught. It attempts to answer the following questions:

  • How can we capture and hold attention?
  • How capable are we of making truly rational decisions?
  • To what extent do first impressions, visuals, and emotions affect our ability to learn information?

This week, I finished the first course and 1/3 of the next course from this track.

People & psychology

This course is by Peep Laja, founder of CXL. In 9 lessons, he teaches us how we can understand people so we can convert them.

Cialdini’s 7 Principles of Persuasion

Robert Cialdini’s book Influence is a book that most marketers recommend, so I’m not surprised this was taught. Laja explained Cialdini’s principles with relevant, actionable examples.

Fogg Behavior Model

Laja then explained Dr. BJ Fogg’s research on credibility and behavioral design. The $300 million dollar button story was particularly interesting for me. Moral of the story: enable guest checkout!

Lessons from Neuromarketing

This lesson talked about the Old Brain, the ancient and primitive part of our brain, and how it dominates our brain when making decisions. The lesson ended with a TEDx Talk by Patrick Renvoise (I rather enjoyed this).

A Big List of Persuasion Techniques

Laja went on to explain a lot of persuasion techniques. And by a lot, I mean a lot lot. I counted 40. It was a lot to take in but it was just as interesting as the other lessons. Position Targeting was my favorite thing to learn about because you don’t always have the absolute best offer in the marketplace and so the tips were helpful.

Cognitive Biases – We’re All Affected By Them

This lesson taught some of the more common biases faced during CRO work (it required a bit of a background in CRO to understand but I think I got it). It’s good to be aware of the biases we have in order to handle them better.

Emotional and Rational Decision Making

Laja started by stating a fact that was very surprising for me: “well over 90% of our behavior is generated outside of consciousness”. Then I learned about how important it is to sell to the old brain but serve both the emotional and rational parts of our brain.

How People View Websites

Eyetracking and research have shown us how people view websites. The first part of the lesson was not at all new to me, but still very valuable to be reminded of. Knowing things like F-patterns really helps in making websites that are engaging. The latter part of the lesson was new to me and I’m sure it will really help me.

E-commerce Product Page Study: Value Perceptions and Image size

This lesson involved part one of a three-part study series exploring ecommerce product page design. The hypothesis was that: “large product images on product pages result in a higher perceived value compared to smaller product images on the same page”. The results were that it was true for a hard drive study treatment, but not so much for a shirt study treatment. I’m sure more will be explained later.

Cognitive Fluency

For the last lesson Laja touched upon how the easier it is to understand your product, the greater the probability that people would buy it. Even fonts you use matter. I think that makes perfect sense.

Attention Basics

In this course, Roger Dooley walks us through how to get attention and maintain it.

Oxytocin and First Impressions

This lesson talked about how trust is increased by oxytocin, even when the oxytocin is artificial. It also talked about how visitors have a first impression on your website already in the first 35 to 50 milliseconds, so gaining trust early on is crucial.

First Impressions

Dooley explained 4 factors that influence first impressions on a website. It helped reinforce to me what kind of web design converts users.

Internal vs External Factors

This lesson explains how attention can be gained via two routes: external factors (considered objective) and internal factors (considered subjective). An important reminder for me was how important it is to “analyze whether you’re grabbing someone’s attention, or distracting them from the offer on your site”.

Note: there was an announcement of a quiz at the start of the lesson. I got nervous because of this, since this was the first mention ever of having a quiz during my pursuit of the Minidegree. It turned out that there was only one question, and I passed! It was a tricky and difficult question though.

Overall, my experience of learning this first week was quite a challenge, but a good one. I am confident I am slowly learning to become a better designer and marketer.

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