How To Use the “Seven Deadly Sins” to Turn Visitors into Customers

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Since the beginning of time, people have exploited the human desire to sin so that they could achieve their goals. Finding out what causes people to sin helps us understand the triggers which prompt people to take an action. The Web has made it even easier to exploit these tendencies to sin, in order to build user engagement and excitement about your service or product. In this article we’ll show examples of how successful companies exploit the tendency to conduct all the famous Seven Deadly Sins, and in turn generate momentum with their website visitors. Ready? Let’s roll.

Sin #1: Pride

Pride is defined as having an excessively high opinion of oneself. You must remember someone from your school days who had an extremely high sense of their personal appearance or abilities. That’s pride at work. On the Web, this sin will help you sell your product. Every website visitor wants to be associated with a successful service that other people might find impressive.

People want to say: “Yes, Fortune 500 companies use this tool and I use it as well,” or “Yes, I got on the homepage of Dribbble in front of thousands of other designers; that’s the type of work I do.” In all these examples, people are proud of their achievements and the website helps them show their pride. Here are examples of this first sin in action:

Showing off your customers. People want to use tools that big brands use. SEOmoz does a great job of fronting up the logos of famous companies that pay for their tools, with a simple call to action prompting you to be as successful as these top brands. This entices users to try this tool: “I want to use something big brands use.”

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Fronting up the top users. People want to be considered the best. You are proud to be nominated or picked to be the best. You brag about it to your friends. You mention your accomplishments to your significant other. You want to to be picked as the best one, over thousands of others. Dribbble fronts up top designs on their homepage. This forces people to use their website more and more, to get to the top. A little pride on your site just might get many more customers to use your service.

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Sin #2: Gluttony

Most people think of gluttony in terms of eating. However, the more generic definition of this sin is over-consuming something to the point that it is wasted. It’s a desire to consume more than you can possibly consume. On the Web, companies use this sin to seduce the user into signing up by promising an endless supply of goods.

How many times have you seen “Unlimited” as one of the motivators to get you to buy a tool or service? We are a consumer generation. We want more and more awesome functionality and coolness for our money. The more a website promises us for our money, the more likely you are to sign up. Here are examples of this sin in action:

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The unlimited gluttony of features for a cheap price drives people to sign up for a product or service. If you want to attract user’s attention, create a valuable offer and provide unlimited resources for customers to use or collect.

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Sin #3: Sloth

In the modern view, “sloth” means laziness and indifference. Let’s face it, some of us are extremely lazy by nature. If we don’t have to do something, we’d rather not do it. On the Web, this sin is seen as making tasks overly simple and easy for potential customers. Products and services which “do all the hard work for you” win customers over. Here are some examples of this technique in action:

Making posting a blog post ridiculously easy from anywhere. Posterous is another example of sloth. Don’t want to invest too much time in a blog post? Want to just email or text message your blog post to post it? Solved. Now you don’t have to worry about the formatting, the look and feel, or any other details. You just email the text for your blogs and Posterous takes care of all the details.

Making finances ridiculously easy. Mint is a great example of sloth. Who really wants to spend their time looking for the best interest rates for their savings accounts? Who wants to track their spending? All I have to do is give Mint my financial details and it will tell me where I’m overspending, and also look through thousands of banks to give me the best deals. The tagline reads: “We download and categorize your balances and transactions automatically every day—making it effortless to see graphs of your spending, income, balances, and net worth.” I could do all this on my own, but I’m lazy, and I want someone else to do this for me.

Sin #4: Envy

Envy is when you want something others have. You’re so envious of people that have a status or possession you want, that you’re willing to do what ever it takes to get. On the Web you see this in envy for reward points, followers, friends, and private invites. Here are examples of this in action:

Achieving a status. Mayorship in Foursquare is a great example of this. Ever hear something like this from someone you know: “Who has the mayorship of the Starbucks I go to? Oh, he has only 35 check-ins. I’ll totally beat him next week.” People want that “mayor” status. They’re envious of the person that has it. This drives people to use Foursquare more and more to achieve that status.

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Rockmelt is a web browser that can be downloaded only per invite. The developers portray the browser as “your browser, re-imagined.” They ask folks who want to join, to connect via Facebook and request an invite. Once you’ve done it, your friends on Facebook who already use Rockmelt can see that you asked for an invite and send you one through the browser’s interface.

You might also check up on whether existing members share invite codes on Twitter. This exclusivity creates envy in people who don’t have invites. This envy fuels their desire to constantly seek an invite to Rockmelt, all the time. Once you actually become a user of the tool, you feel like you’re part of an exclusive club and are strongly encouraged to engage with the tool.

Give people something to envy on your website, and you’ll see more loyal users engaging with your service or product.

Sin #5: Lust

Lust is usually thought of as excessive sexual desire. On the Web, this sin translates into our desire to buy sexy, shiny things which not all of us can afford. Websites use interactivity with large, bold, rotating images to seduce us into buying the gadget. Here is an example of lust in action:

Providing the ability to play around and view the product. In web design, lust is often triggered by professional product photography which appears shining, attractive and exclusive in its own right. Rolex’s website is an example of this. The sliding gallery encourages the site visitors to explore the site which is not just a showcase of Rolex’s products, but rather an exhibition of company’s image, style, philosophy and branding.

Rolex tells the story about the quality of its products, their precision and aesthetic appeal. Notice how the designers provide animations and various views for each product, making it more interesting and desireable.

Volkswagen does a good job of seducing people into buying their cars. Its interactive website lets you customize and build your own version of the car you’re interested in. It is even possible to paint the car in whichever color you like. The process of pimping your car in the way you want, makes you lust over the car you’ve just “created.” In this example, our lust for shiny things is exploited. The more we interact with the Volkswagen website, the more we want to buy their product.

Full Interactive ViewSummary view

Sin #6: Greed

Greed is an overly excessive pursuit of status, power and wealth. It’s the desire to have more than you need or deserve. The pursuit is so strong that one would go through any means necessary to fulfill it. On the Web, this sin is seen in the desire to gain influence, followers and power.

Being hungry for more Twitter followers. Twitter is the perfect example of a website where all of us are hungry for more followers. The famous wars of Ashton Kutcher, Oprah, CNN and Britney Spears for more followers, shows us how greed gets the best of us. The more followers we have, the more influence we have over people. All of us are greedy for these followers.

Getting power through more Digg followers. The original model behind Digg was very simple: you “digg” a specific piece of news, or a website. Your friends see this, and “digg” this same article, moving it to the top. The top articles on the Digg homepage get millions of people checking them out. The more friends you have, the easier it is for you to move any news to the top. A person who has 500,000 friends can move a story to the top of Digg in minutes, as opposed to someone who is just starting out. People at the top have much more power over everyone else. The greed for friends on Digg is what keeps us hungry for more.

In these examples above, we are hungry to gain influence and power and want to engage with the  service to fulfill our goal.

Sin #7: Wrath

Last but not least, wrath is defined as uncontrolled feelings of rage, anger and hatred. On the Web, this sin is used by companies to generate gossip and buzz around their product or service.

Encouraging criticism. Amazon is a perfect example of using wrath to create controversy and more engagement with the product. The website fronts up the most helpful critical review, right beside the most helpful, favorable review. This prompts the shoppers to respond to these reviews and to add their own reviews, as they try the product out.

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Catering to frustration. The Consumerist is a perfect example of using consumer frustration to generate content and activity on a website. Giving angry shoppers the ability to vent and to express their frustrations, generates tremendously long discussions and activity on the website. The concept of consumer anger is rooted deep in the Consumerist tagline:

Furthermore, as you use the website and vent your anger about products, you get even more worked up about banners such as these (found on the Consumerist website):

Conclusion

You can now see in what way the results sinning on the Web generate for your business. Keep in mind that when companies try to get their customers to sin too hard, it’s usually very apparent and often results in drawing potential customers away. It’s important to maintain a good balance between sin and common sense. Next time you’re creating a website for a product or service, think back to these examples of the Seven Deadly Sins in action and see how you can use them to your advantage. Now go out there and get your customers to sin. What are you waiting for?

(ik)(vf)

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ZURB is a close-knit team of interaction designers and strategists that help companies design better products & services through consulting, products, education, books, training and events. Since 1998 ZURB has helped over 75+ clients including: Facebook, eBay, NYSE, Yahoo, Zazzle, Playlist, Britney Spears, among others.

  1. 1

    hahahah .. i really like the way you turn this important points into sing. great article.

    -2
  2. 2

    great article! def. some useful sins to incorporate.

    -5
  3. 3

    Really nice article!

    I’d love to translate it to portuguese and post it on my blog (arquiteturadeinformacao.com), so that brazilian UX guys get to know these examples. Would you allow me to do that, mentioning the source and linking to this page?

    -3
  4. 4

    “Greed is an overly excessive pursuit of status, power and wealth” .wow awesome. thanks!

    -11
  5. 5

    Best article ever. Thanks!

    -12
  6. 6

    Is this what this magazine has turn into? Useless posts to please their writers instead of useful information?

    Let me guess next one…. Hmm…. What about ‘How to create an attractive fully functional website without a computer “?

    -36
  7. 8

    Guys,
    Your articles just keep getting better and better

    -4
  8. 9

    First, boring. This is old hat in marketing, as old as sin itself.

    Second, do you really want to encourage sin? Wouldn’t that result in a worse society and worse people? Yes, hence our self-centered, consumeristic, narcissistic, materialistic culture here in the West.

    This article promotes the use of sin to feed the sins of greed and pride on the part of producers.

    Yes, this article (as intended) is a picture of sin, and following its advice is the same.

    There is one flash of insight, though: “Keep in mind that when companies try to get their customers to sin too hard, it’s usually very apparent and often results in drawing potential customers away.”

    Consider this potential customer drawn away.

    -27
    • 10

      First, boring.

      Yes, because as we all know the world exists to entertain you.

      This is old hat in marketing, as old as sin itself.

      Yes, because we now have marketing 2.0 which so much better / different.

      11
  9. 11

    FreelanceFolder had a series about the 7 Deadly Sins, but they related to freelancing mistakes, if I recall correctly. Interesting to use them as a way of depicting how one can achieve conversion rates.

    0
  10. 12

    Although I disagree with some of the points you mentioned I liked the article as a whole.

    Why did you mention Rolex website?!! Isn’t the Apple website a better example. Have a look at their website from time to time and you will see them display their products in a really sexy (read come-and-take-our-product) way. I don’t know if many will agree but Apple as a technology company is nothing without the presentations they make of their products. While many companies may offer better technology, the one that connects with the people well and describe its product in a clean manner is always the winner. Simple things are the more sexy ones :)

    4
    • 13

      Don’t you think the Apple example is a little tired? So many people use them as fodder, referencing them becomes noise. Rolex is the apex of lust. It is a watch for goodness sake, but people attach so much meaning to it they are willing to pay $10,000.

      12
      • 14

        Why not give the best example people can relate to easily. In case of Rolex, it lies the “luxury” segment, while many people might like a $10,000 watch, they might not buy it. While people will buy an iPad, force-converted towards it from the Apple site :)

        -6
        • 15

          Your reasoning is wrong. People will buy what they are interested in. I would buy a 10k watch if it was a real piece of art and I would be all proud wearing it, while I will never buy an iPad since i consider it useless to me – I prefer to read a normal newspaper or book – I already have to watch a screen for over 8 hours at work.

          Opposite goes for you who doesn’t care about a watch but would buy an iPad since you consider it an interesting and fun gadget.

          Don’t look how many people can afford something, but rather how to convince people who can afford it to buy it.

          5
          • 16

            You are equating buying a $10k watch when there are $100 alternatives that look and do just as good a job….to an iPad which the alternative is….what??

            Not a very good analogy you have there when explaining the relationship of excess and greed. Its not about interest for a Rolex, or a million dollar car….its about status. An iPad is not about status, its a useful device.

            Continue reading your normal newspaper and books….but I would much rather read 100 newspapers from different countries and download books at home, as opposed to wasting gas and trees by driving to B&N to buy a physical book.

            Your Apple hatred is really showing.

            -12
  11. 17

    That is the whole point of incentive-centered design.

    -4
  12. 18

    Really great article !
    It makes me think about new ideas :)

    -4
  13. 19

    All pretty simple clever ideas, yet someone being paid a fortune comes up with them and implements them on the right site is a creative superstar!

    -6
  14. 20

    Nothing on the sin of consensus?

    -4
  15. 21

    I love the post and it’s title! Very interesting. And even though some people say it’s old news… for people like me with a design background but little marketing experience, it can inspire new elements or arrangement in a design — it makes me a better designer, and makes my client happier. WIN!

    Thanks Zurb.

    3
  16. 22

    Interesting – but that’s about it! Sort of a “Screwtape Letters” thing in a C S Lewis sort of way. You got an article published; but, it completely misses the point. Don’t know about you specifically, but my guess is that you’re under 40 – possibly way under 40. From the vantage point of the other side of the line – I can tell you that none of these are what the “silent majority” judge either web sites or products on the highest.

    Pure and simple, “am I being treated honestly,” “does it actually work,” “do I have confidence in this” and “WHAT CAN I AFFORD” trump everything that you’ve listed. Unfortunately the ME generation does, in fact, respond all too frequently to this type of manipulation (sorry – you like to call it “social engineering”) which, I’m sure, leads you think this approach is best. Unfortunately, no matter which one you choose, any one of them leaves life, the world and any one involved less of a place to be in or be with.

    For now, the ME generation may be enough for you to market to and all you want; except, at least for awhile we’ve got you out numbered! “It’s important to maintain a good balance between sin and common sense.” Indeed! It seems that pretty much the biggest sinning is the greed in the designer who thinks this is the answer to creating a good or effective site. Aesthetics, honest and clean content, accurate and adequate information, attention to detail and personal integrity go much further in selling a product, retaining membership, repeat selling and maintaining customer/reader base than anything you’ve mentioned.

    Inadequate people are always looking for “magic bullets” or gimmicks or easy ways to attempt to get them the things they want. These things you espouse as if you had something new to say remind me of the plethora of “I can get you #1 search rankings” SEO schemes – hollow at best, insidiously destructive at worst. Perhaps it’s the melancholy born of years of living in a world which we wish was better that makes us over-the-liners have “leaving things better than you found them” as our prime directive. Remember, you have to live in the world you create!

    11
    • 23

      Thanks DJ. Agree wholeheartedly with your comment.

      -3
    • 24

      Ideals(how it should be) always have conflict with the real world(How it is).
      Marketing has better results by embracing the current world flow, embracing the people’s current nature favors the goal of most businesses.

      -1
  17. 25

    Really good article. Thanks for sharing.

    -6
  18. 26

    Everybody knows atleast some part of the post but the way it’s been articulated makes it informative.Kudos to Dragilev!

    -4
  19. 27

    Based on a great movie.. ;)

    -4
  20. 28

    Great analogy. Genius

    -3
  21. 29

    Great Article – I’d bet that it took longer than it looked to come up with the great examples: especially “Wrath”, which I never would have guessed at.

    -3
  22. 30

    Ramesh Vishwakarma

    November 18, 2010 9:18 pm

    great article…. i like ittttttttttttttt…

    -2
  23. 31

    Great article really enjoyed reading it.

    -2
  24. 32

    A nice title to draw people but more than “sins” these are base needs of human beings every business caters to. Hunger, desire, pride, rage, envy, they show all these feelings on television commercials to promote products that don’t have any particular value. For example they show you that if you have bought a particular brand of a car, you have “really arrived”. They hardly talk about the features and the value the vehicle provides you.

    I have noticed most of the products and services that strum the strings of your sins are pretty useless and they exist only for the fad value. In fact that is primarily the reason why the promoters have to resort to such silly (but highly effective) methods of promotion.

    -1
  25. 33

    Great article…I have not read an article with an interesting perspective for awhile…rock on!

    -2
  26. 34

    It’s a very interesting metaphor to describe different methods of marketing strategy! Thank you Smashing Magazine as a customer myself I can realize my own sins and say no to what I don’t need but keep buying with instincts, furthermore I learn new way to attract customers to my websites. Very useful and informative!

    -2
  27. 35

    Steve @Erraticblog

    November 19, 2010 7:00 am

    Fantastic examples for all 7. I personally think that Envy can be the biggest driver. Everyone is envious of something.

    -2
  28. 36

    I found this a good read!
    Makes you think about the way you can sell things on the web… And probably makes one a better copy writer.

    Though, on a personal level I don’t seem to fall for these enticements: last week I received an invite to join Rockmelt, and I outright ignored it (why would I need another browser? I’m only using one or two at the time.)!

    0
  29. 37

    Verdadeira verdade,

    é incrível a quantidade de pessoas, me incluindo na história, que se deixam levar pelos próprios sentimentos no momento de tomar uma decisão.

    Eles trabalham de forma silenciosa muitas vezes.

    -3
  30. 38

    I’m not agree with everything and I notice that some definitions are repeating, some boundaries between this categorisations are little blured, but never mind. This is brilliant and provocative article.

    I just wanted to thanks ZURB and Smashing for this great article.

    -1
  31. 39

    Good translation of these seven sins according to the web! Puts things into perspective. Hoo hoo ha ha ha

    -1
  32. 40

    Really great and very helpful post. I will use these “sins” in my next project.
    Thanks

    -5
  33. 41

    The posts on here are mostly meaningless, I find the majority of them boring and mundane.

    -3
  34. 43

    My Rolex costs 55’000$

    -4
  35. 44

    Interesting way to look to the purpose of website . I’ll try to apply this sins in my next project. Articles that shed another light above the web development are very welcome.

    1
  36. 45

    Love the theme

    -2
  37. 46

    I loved the article…nice thoughts put together.
    Regards
    Manprit

    -3
  38. 47

    this article reminds me of Full Metal Alchemist’s Homunculus that are named after the 7 sins.

    0
  39. 48

    Great! I always visit your sight for advices and you never turn me down.. thanks

    -1
  40. 49

    This is so freaking clever…well done. I just love this site!

    -1
  41. 50

    Great article. I often try to figure out how to attract users to my site and this hit the nail on the head. You basically have to give people a sense of exclusivity when they visit your site. Its better to have 10 users who are proud to brag about how their apart of an exclusive site vs. 1000 users who can careless about your extremely accessible site

    -2
  42. 51

    Sally Hogshead has a great book on this; ‘Fascinate’. It’s a really great read and goes into great depth on each of these ‘triggers’.

    -1
  43. 52

    Since the article about creating and promoting active discussions and debates,why does every positive comment or compliment to liking the article get the thumbs down? I understand that some of them have no merit or conviction other than a message of enjoyment or pleasure from the content but Freedom of speech, thought and expression are surely a basic privilege and right. Why not let people say what they have to say and get on with your lives. Instead of becoming like an angry mob and mass-clicking of the dreaded thumbs down.

    3
  44. 53

    Wow, that’s a lot of comments!

    -1
  45. 54

    what on earth is wrong with trying to sell your product? if people cant look at an ad and turn the page, that’s something they need to work on themselves and would happen if they saw their neighbor wearing it. we get mad at people for selling to us because we have no self control.

    1
  46. 55

    Awesome article! Always have to keep in mind the different personalities that are viewing your products and what it takes to get them to make that purchase.

    0
  47. 56

    Abdullah Bin Laique

    December 13, 2010 10:10 pm

    Great Article I really like the way you define these points in such a good way and with great examples nice article.. InshaAllah for now I will follow these point to design websites..

    0
  48. 57

    Nice work !!! Rocking :)

    0
  49. 58

    Heil Satan?

    What exactly inspired you to write this?

    0

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