The Art of Peripheral Persuasion: Visuals in Web Design

Pick a Mood Screenshot

They say that content is king, and that’s true. Quality, keyword-rich content will go a long way for your SEO and conversion rates.
But people are visual in nature, and long blocks of text don’t do your site any justice.

That’s why you need to strategically incorporate high-quality, emotionally charged, appropriate imagery throughout your site. Images help attract your viewers’ attention and keep them focused on your message.

Visuals deliver context for communicating messages in the three ways: by providing information, eliciting emotional responses, and causing persuasion.

Here are some tips and examples of different ways to use visuals for persuading conversions.


One of your website’s primary purposes is to provide potential customers with all the information they need to make a purchasing decision. Sometimes, that information can be lengthy or complex, and might be more easily digestible if represented visually. Other times, you may be selling a physical product (like a piece of clothing or a device) that people will want to see and examine before making the big commitment.

In any case, images can help deliver information, provide context and tell your brand story.

Deliver Information

Let’s pretend we’re shopping online for a new iPhone.  We go to the Apple comparison site and land on a page that provides excellent information on the three latest iPhones in terms of specs, capacity, price and color. When removing the images, like I did in the screenshot below, you have to really compare all three descriptions to identify the differences between them, especially visual differences like size and color.

Apple information Visualization

Screenshot Taken 6/12/2014 from

Now if we look at the original presentation, we see that the images instantly convey an order, with the largest and therefore most advanced on the left and the smallest on the right. A quick scan of the prices supports this assumption. We can also see not only the different color swatches at the bottom, but images of the phones in all of these colors as well.

Now all that viewers have to do is check the differences between the iPhone 5S and the 5C. That’s it. The visuals provide an instant idea of what the three models look like and what their main differences are, so visitors can easily make a decision.

Apple iPhone Model Comparison Visualization

Screenshot taken 6/12/2014 from

Provide Context

When explaining a complicated concept or idea, it can be tricky to accurately convey your message without going on and on to make your point. On the web, you want to be as precise as possible tso visitors can understand your idea within seconds.

This is where visuals like graphs, charts and infographics are handy. These elements help you communicate a message without necessarily having to spell it out.

One such example could be instructions for tying different knots, a task which would be almost impossible to explain without some sort of visual representation. “Tie strand side A around strand side B twice before tucking strand side B through the left-side loop” is complicated and hard to visualize, especially for first-timers.

Knot 2 Shabby is an infographic (pictured below) that effectively provides instructions for tying different knots in a purely visual format. With step-by-step graphics to detail every step of the way, this infographic takes a fairly complicated subject and makes it as easy to follow as possible.

Knot To Shabby Context Visualization

Screenshot Taken 6/12/2014 from

Sure, visuals are great. But you might be wondering how the heck can draw in any revenue via this method.  Using context is one of the strongest methods to inducing sales from potential consumers.  The infographic, Pick a Mood for the Room, is quite honestly the greatest “context” piece I’ve come across.  By attracting readers interested in remodeling their room, this infographic captures the attention of shoppers and shows the context for which their choices would affect their remodel.  Conveniently, the producer of the content, Gate to Garage, sells those goods.

Pick a Mood for the Room Context Infographic

Screenshot taken 6/12/2014 from

Tell a Story

Visuals can also put content into perspective, adding value to your content in many ways. A selection of words that stand alone won’t be nearly as effective as they could be with images.

An example is Future of Car Sharing, an organization devoted to spreading awareness about the benefits of car sharing. Its website is a fun, interactive experience where users “drive” through different sections of horizontally scrolling content.

Shane Jones

Shane Jones

Director of Earned Media at WebpageFX
Shane Jones is the Director of Earned Media at WebpageFX, a Pennsylvania marketing agency. Additionally, Shane is a Reporter at Econsultancy US, where he covers Conversion Marketing and UX Design. Shane loves making friends and wants you to connect with him on Twitter, Google+ or if you reach out via his blog.
Shane Jones