Flow and Seductive Interactions

How to create an engaging website and increase conversion rates?

According to psychologist Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi, great websites are really not about navigating content – they are all about staging an experience. The key, says Csíkszentmihályi, is a finely tuned sense of rhythm, involvement, and anticipation known as “flow”.

Csíkszentmihályi has famously stated that flow is “– being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.”

In a book called “Seductive Interaction Design”, Stephen Anderson takes a similar approach to designing sites and interactions, based on the psychological stages of seduction. I recently purchased a copy of this book.

In the very first chapter, Anderson lists four different aspects of an engaging and seductive experience:

  • Sequencing — we are more likely to take action when complex tasks are broken down into smaller tasks.
  • Appropriate challenges — we delight in challenges, especially ones that strike a balance between being overwhelming and being boring.
  • Status — we constantly assess how interactions enhance or diminish our standing relative to others and our personal best.
  • Achievements — we are more likely to engage in activities in which meaningful achievements are recognized.

I think each one of these factors is crucial in relation to increasing conversion rates. To me, it is sequencing that seems like the most important aspect. The tasks performed online may be complex – just consider the process of purchasing a pair of new sneakers from an online store, for example. Sequencing is especially important, when conversions require for several fields to be completed in an online form, for example.

As for the rest of the aspects, appropriate challenges certainly motivate us to take action, status is very desirable, and is what really makes us want to use the product or service, and we are definitely most likely to engage in activities when our personal demographics and previous achievements are recognized.

Applying the concept of “flow”, an engaging website presents us with personalized, interesting challenges, encourages us to take action, gives a sense of an elevated status, and highlights our achievements.

It seems to me, that all of this correlates with the emerging trends. Personal improvement is one of the key megatrends at the moment. Wearable technology is gaining in popularity, healthy foods are trending, self-help and motivational literature is increasingly being published, and new forms of physical exercise are on the rise, just to point out a few examples.

Considering this, and the concept of “flow”, the most desirable digital service design now, and the kind that increases conversions, is the type that ultimately caters for the customer’s personal improvement, while giving us a sense of a true “flow experience” of micro-moments while performing relatively complex tasks.

Author: Iiris Konttinen

I am a digital service design and digital marketing professional based in Helsinki, Finland.