In the most general scheme of categorization, we’ve learned that each of the millions of different personalities falls into one of four main groups, which my brother and I labeled in 2001 in our book “Persuasive Online Copywriting” as Driver, Amiable, Expressive, and Analytical, and later renamed them to:
- Competitive. Fast-paced decision-making, logically oriented
- Spontaneous. Fast-paced decision-making, emotionally oriented
- Humanistic. Slow-paced decision-making, emotionally oriented
- Methodical. Slow-paced decision-making, logically oriented
It doesn’t really matter what you call them. The thing is, you need to become intimately acquainted with these personalities. They are your website’s visitors. And once you know who they are, you have the inside track on how you shape your design and writing to persuade them most effectively.
At the most fundamental level, all people are motivated by a single, critical question: what’s in it for me (WIIFM)? Their dominant personality types strongly influence how they ask that question, perceive value, and consciously – or more typically, subconsciously – approach a decision-making task.
You can certainly see this behavior when you listen to people during usability tests. In fact, check out this video for people searching for “black diamonds.” Listen to their choice of words, how certain things make them feel, and what moves them forward or causes them to stumble.
Usability pundit Jakob Nielsen shared the results of an eye-tracking study he performed in 2007 on the U.S. Census Bureau’s home page. He uses gaze plots to describe four main types of visitor behavior: “search-dominant,” “navigation-dominant,” “tool-dominant,” and “successful.” If you were to look at these four types of behavior through the lens of the personality types you would naturally see beyond what people gazed at and clicked on, and into why they acted the way they did. It’s a natural preference.