| |

Guest Post: The 4 Ways Your Website Visitors Make Decisions

This is another great guest post from our friends down in Portland at Synotac web design. They have a knack for understanding what makes the people that make up your web traffic tick and that is reflected in their succesful redesigns. This article should help you get a glimpse into your own traffic. How do the people on your site make decisions? Are they making the ones you want them to?

One of the biggest challenges and opportunities with any website is figuring out three things about your visitors:

  1. What they are looking for
  2. How they make decisions
  3. How #1 and #2 can be aligned with your business objectives to create results for your organization

One of the most effective tools to help understand if your website messaging, copy, functionality, layout and design is helping your visitors to make decisions is the Decision Making Quadrant, a tool for understanding how visitors make decisions online.

This tool, adapted from the Eisenbergs various books (such as Always Be Testing), is a quick way to look at any site and think about how you are addressing these decision making styles.  The core principle for this tool is to understand that people make decisions in two main ways: fast vs. slow, and emotional vs. logical.  These two axes combine into a quadrant for looking at four different decision making types online.


  1. Fast-Logical: The Competitive type
  2. Fast-Emotional:  The Spontaneous type
  3. Slow-Logical: The Methodical type
  4. Slow-Emotional: The Humanistic type

Another helpful way to look at each of the types is in the kind of language that they are looking for:

  1. Fast-Logical: Tell me WHAT you will do for me and what makes it better than other options
  2. Fast-Emotional: Tell me WHY I should use your product or service
  3. Slow-Logical: Tell me HOW you will deliver your product or service and give me all the details behind your approach
  4. Slow-Emotional: Tell me WHO you are and let me make a connection


The Decision Making Quadrant is a tool to help us to engage with our customers or visitors in the manner in which they wish to engage. Author and psychologist David Keirsey wrote an entire book about the importance of this concept–Please Understand Me–in which he lays out the research behind the personality types quadrant that is the basis for this tool, and discusses the human challenge of not trying to force others to behave as we do.  As with most marketing tools, the goal is to create empathy with our customers.  It is important to remember that you are only concerned with the dominant decision making mode of a specific customer segment or persona when they are interacting with your brand; people are complex and may engage in many different decision making styles in different contexts.

Every component of your website is geared towards at least one of these decision making styles.  It is easy to look at a website and think of what we would like to see or what appeals to us, but we face two huge challenges in being effective critics of our own web marketing efforts: one, we are afflicted by the curse of knowledge where we know far more about our business than any typical prospect ever will; and two, we are afflicted by the natural human tendency to think of our decision-making style as the best or only natural way to make decisions.

Once you have the Decision Making Quadrant as a part of your frame of reference for looking at a website or any interactive marketing element, you can quickly see how different components appeal to different styles.  A page geared towards a methodical personality type will have lots of details and be extremely thorough; that same approach can be extremely off-putting to the other three types. Similarly, a page geared towards a competitive personality type will clearly show why your product or service is best and clearly quantify the results achieved; this approach may seem cold, tactical, and irrelevant to a spontaneous personality type.

In our experience, simply asking why any specific element on a website is designed or phrased in a specific way immediately creates productive discussion and improved results.  The Decision Making Quadrant is a great tool for creating a more productive and effective discussion.