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Optimise This with Nathalie Nahai the Web Psychologist

In this episode of Optimise This we chat with Nathalie Nahai the Web Psychologist about ascertaining demographic data about the client’s audience, how to deeply understand the nuances, personality traits and behaviors of our clients’ audience and community, the major cultural differences between the UK, US, Australia and New Zealand, a cases where the psychological analysis of a site was radically different from the test results, how to tell which content is right for a page and what her new course offers.

If you’d prefer to read the interview you’ll find a full transcription below the video. Enjoy!


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Video Transcription

Nathalie: So where are you based, right now?

Chris: Dundee.

Nathalie: Wicked.

Chris: In Scotland. Oh. Actually, I meant to say hi to you, at Searchlove, I was there on the Tuesday night, just in the pub?

Nathalie: Oh cool, yeah. Wicked.

Chris: But you were just leaving as I was coming in, so.

Nathalie: Oh no. Yeah, the Tuesday night, I was pretty pissed the Tuesday night. That was a great night, I really enjoyed myself.

Chris: And Patrick, that works here, he was at the actual event, so he saw your session. But I wasn’t there. I saw on another video, you said you liked cocktails.

Nathalie: I love cocktails.

Chris: What kind?

Nathalie: My favorite one, and it’s going to sound really weird, I had it once in a club. It’s called Lychee and Chili martini. I really like sweet and really hot, pretty much food. I love Thai food, so it was perfect. Yeah, that’s my favourite. Not that easy to come by, but when you do, oh my God, they’re really good.

Chris: I normally drink Corona with lime in it.

Nathalie: That’s really good, actually.

Chris: Yeah. There’s a few rough pubs in Scotland that consider that a cocktail, I think.

Nathalie: Well, you’re more hardened up there, we’re more kind of flimsy Brits down here, the bourgeois, what have you, whatever. Actually, I’ve got a double-barreled surname, I use Nahai because it’s easier, but it’s actually ‘Nahai-Williamson’, and on my dad’s side, it’s actually the McLarens. It’s not one of the bigger tribes, like the main ones, but we’ve got a tartan and everything.

Chris: Nice.

Nathalie: So I’ve got some Scottish ancestry, you’ll be excited to hear. It’s sort of like the Black Watch and Tinker, sort of the dark side of Scotland, which my dad is really excited about. My dad is really brutal, but he’s like, ‘Yeah. Scottish.’

Chris: Excellent. And have you been up here before?

Nathalie: Mm-hm. But not to Dundee. I’ve had the pleasure of going to Inverness, and Edinburgh. We had some of my family lived there, for a while.

Chris: That’s pretty much the only two places worth visiting.

Nathalie: Oh, don’t say that. That’s bollocks, I’m sure it’s really-, I hear other parts of Scotland’s really beautiful, I’ve just never been out that way. My fiancé’s mom, she’s Scottish, she came from… she was born and raised in Glasgow, and they actually have a croft in Scotland somewhere in the highlands, I don’t know exactly where, but apparently it’s really beautiful.

Chris: Okay, cool. Let me just find out some of this stuff so I don’t take up too much of your time. Thanks for joining us for another episode of Optimise This. This week we’re lucky enough to be joined by Nathalie Nahai, otherwise known as the Web Psych who, If you go to a few conferences, you’ve possibly seen her at a few in the last year. So Nathalie, can you just tell us a little about who you are and what you do?

Nathalie: Sure. So, I’m a Web Psychologist, which means I’m interested in how online behaviour is getting influenced, mostly on the subconscious level, so, what happens when you go on to a website and people show you particular images or colors or, of course, action, how do they get you to behave in certain ways? My background is in psychology, and design and development of websites, and visual strategy, and I now consult with businesses and do lots of speaking, and run courses, and write books, and do all that sort of stuff.

Chris: Okay, so when you first start working with a new client then, what sort of tools do you use to ascertain demographic data about the client’s audience?

Nathalie: So the first thing I would do is take the demographic information that they’ve got. Most people have that kind of stuff so, age, gender, also geo-location is really important. If you’ve got really specific areas, like let’s say it’s London versus. Dundee, that’s going to be a different demographic based on subcultural differences. So I start with demographic stuff, and then in terms of tools, I actually use a research-based approach. So you look to see if any academic research has been carried out for those demographics. Usually they have, and for the bits that haven’t been carried out, we then figure out how best to fill in those blanks through tools such as Qualaroo tend to be really good. So non-invasive tools you can use within a website.

In terms of optimizing a website itself, my favorite tool is a neuro-scientific tool by Eyequant, which is E-Y-E-Q-U-A-N-T. I’ll send you the link for this afterwards, but they’re partners of mine, and they basically take a screen grab of your website, and figure out within 90% of real live eye-tracking trials where people will see when they first land on the site. That’s how I monitor how the research that I’ve advised to apply works. So it speeds up the inspiration process much, much more quickly.

Chris: Okay, excellent. We’ve been doing some other interviews this week, and one of the things David Cohen from SEER asked was, ‘Do you think our digital marketing industry needs an innovative and finely crafted tool to help us more deeply understand the nuances, personality traits, and behaviours of our clients’ audience and community?’

Nathalie: I think the question reveals an inherent desire for a silver-bullet technique, of which there are none. There are tools that exist out there that can help on aspects of it, so have you heard of Science Rockstars in the Netherlands?

Chris: Yep.

Nathalie: Okay so they have this thing called PersuasionAPI which uses psychological persuasion techniques, within an algorithm, to basically serve up to the customer the technique which will be most effective for that person, based on your behavioural traits. So there are tools you can use that can help you, but at the moment there is no shortcut for actually going and getting trained, in some way or another, in the behavioural sciences, which is why I’m doing this course called Web Psychology. Because people just don’t have the basic foundations, and all of us do what we do now including you and me. I didn’t start out as a web psychologist or a designer, you, and I, and everyone else watching probably figured out as we went along what we wanted to do. So we’ve all got very mixed backgrounds. So we’re making this shit up as we’re going along, which is why we want a fresh approach of the people to start on a foundation that we can all start building on.

Chris: I believe I’ll edit that bit out, or completely disagree with you publicly.

Nathalie: No, disagree with me publicly. I love it, let’s lock horns. Go for it. So disagree with me.

Chris: No, I can’t.

Nathalie: Please do. It’s mental sparring.

Chris: So normally we work with clients in the U.K., the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand. So what would you say the major cultural difference are between these four countries that we need to be aware of when we’re designing sites and planning marketing campaigns?

Nathalie: So the U.S., U.K., New Zealand, and Australia? Okay so one great example. I don’t know if you’ve heard of Geert Hofstede, he’s a psychology professor from the Netherlands. He spent 40 years researching cultural dimensions. So it’s kind of like personality traits of a country at a macro level, and there were six dimensions that he outlined. One of them, which is really interesting, is called ‘Power Distance’, and it’s the degree to which people who are less powerful within society expect and accept power distance. So the people who are at the top having lots more power than the people at the bottom.

One of the more interesting things is that Australia I think ranks at the lowest for power distance, they have the lowest power distance. So a concrete example of this is kind of an offline kind of situation. If you’ve got an Australian pilot that’s about to crash into a mountain, the stewardess will think nothing of going into the cockpit and saying to the pilot, ‘What the heck do you think you’re doing? You’ve got to change course’, right? She can go in and say that, it doesn’t make a difference, and he’ll change course, and save lives.

There was a really powerful, I think it was a South Korean airline, where the power distance is much, much higher, where the co-pilot wasn’t able to say, due to cultural norms, to the pilot, ‘We’re losing altitude, we’re going to crash’, and they ended up crashing, and when they took the black box out, it was the cultural difference between them and the Americans and the Australians that made the difference between them surviving or not.

I’m giving this as sort of an extreme example, but with the companies you specified, with the U.K. and New Zealand and Australia and America, they each have very different sets of profiles according to these dimensions. That’s a really good place to start. You can find a lot of those results free on his site, actually,, I can send you a link for that, but that’s where I would start looking at the differences in those four territories.

Chris: Okay. How do you go about testing recommendations to make sure they’re actually making a difference, then?

Nathalie: Several things. It depends on the software platform that you’re using. I use Optimizely because I like Optimizely, it’s really easy. I would isolate one variable at a time to test, and then test that for at least four weeks, so you get the long-tailed view of what effect, if anything, your test is having.

The other thing that’s important to have, that psychologists do and scientists do, is to have a hypothesis, and then a null-hypothesis. So my hypothesis could be, ‘I changed my website to having a predominant colour, which is blue, and it will increase trust, which means the high value proposition will get greater conversions over a period time’. The null-hypothesis is the opposite, so it would be, ‘Okay, if we change the main colour of blue on the website, then this will have no effect whatsoever on conversions’, and then you try to test both. So it’s trying to eliminate our natural biases to see stuff that confirms the outcome that we want.

Chris: Have you ever found any interesting cases where the psychological analysis of a site led you to a certain conclusion, and then it’s not backed up by the evidence once you’ve tried it out?

Nathalie: Yes, okay, there’s one that was really interesting which was done by some friends of mine in the Netherlands. They’re called ‘Online Dialogue’, and Bart Schutz and Ton Wesseling, they were looking at pop-ups. Most of us hate pop-ups, right? I hate pop-ups, and I wrote it in the book, that with particular cultures you don’t use pop-ups. What they found was that actually, in particular websites, especially e-commerce, that the use of pop-ups, even though it was irritating, actually boosted conversions for the only reason which they could isolate, which was that people were having to click and interact with the site.

If we interact with something, it becomes more familiar, and a bit more familiar, and we trust it more, and we trust it more, and we’re more likely to buy. So just by the act of getting pissed off at this pop-up, people were converting more, even though they were irritated by it. And they tried this in a whole range of ways, and so that is a really exciting example of when you have a hypothesis, and yet you get it wrong, because it aligns with another psychological principle that you hadn’t even thought about. So yeah, that’s really exciting.

Chris: How do you decide what type of content is more suitable for a page? Like on our website, we want people to contact us if they’re interested in us designing a site or doing some SEO, so on any given page, how do we figure out if we’re best off with a few short points, or a long story type structure, or a video?

Nathalie: You test it. You A/B test it. I think the thing is, with any of these things, you have to build up a corpus of knowledge that allows you to figure out what worked, and then to make insightful decisions as to why that might have worked, so you build up a psychographic profile like we were saying about earlier. So, say you wanted to try long-form, versus short-form: Different things work in different contexts, and there’s no one-size-fits-all. It might be that for a really high investment product that requires a lot of money to be paid, you want to do more long-form, you might want to have more rationale, so people feel like they’re getting what they need to make that kind of a decision.

Then there’s the question of testing it. So you have that for 50% of your traffic, and then you split test it for short-form, and then you do one thing at a time. But it takes quite a long time, this process, to see what happens. Because the other issue with testing is you can end up with a novelty factor that can boost conversions and it will dip, so people tend to respond to stuff that changes. So if you change the buttons from green to red, for instance, and you get a spike in conversions, and then it normalises, it may just be a factor from-… God, it’s… do you hear that thunder?

Chris: Is that thunder?

Nathalie: Jesus, well okay, hopefully I’ll be alive by the end of this session. So yes, it can be the novelty factor, which is why it’s important to run them over a long period of time. But I would always split tests.

Chris: Okay, then, let’s just fit this in quickly in case anything happens.

Nathalie: [Laughter]

Chris: [Laughter] You’ve just this week opened your online course, so can you tell us a little bit about what people can expect in it?

Nathalie: Yes. Six-week intensive online course. It’s interactive, and it goes into much more applied use of the behavioural stuff that I talk about in the book. So this is for businesses who’ve read the book, or not necessarily have to have read it, but if you read the book, you wanted to basically start using this stuff in your business. There are quizzes, there’s homework, there are worksheets, there’s videos, that you can download, all of the content, all of the slides etc., it’s been a heck of a lot of work. And there’s a lot more case studies. So the idea really with this is helping people to have consultancy and have, and to learn from their peers.

There are three live webinars as well, so the whole community, which is the 25 people for this particular course, we’ll get together three times over the course to discuss how people are using stuff, and what have they learned. So it’s really, we’re learning from each other, because we’re all experts in aspects of this stuff. Yeah, it’s really exciting, and it launches, it goes live on Monday. So you can get tickets until, you can secure a spot until Sunday night, midnight, at the latest. So no pressure there, then.

Chris: Okay so once 25 people have signed up, that’s it full or…?

Nathalie: Yeah, that’s it.

Chris: Okey dokey. Excellent. Cool. Is there anything else you’d like to add in?

Nathalie: Well if you want some of the free stuff, which is fun, I’ve got a podcast that you can listen to called ‘The Good, The Bad, and The Dirty: The Secret Psychology of Persuasion’, and also I do blog posts like twice a week, and we’ve done a recent hangout on ‘Seduction and Persuasion’, which is now on YouTube, which you can also check out. And if you’ve got any questions just ping me an email, or I’m @TheWebPsych on Twitter. That’s it, really.

Chris: Cool. The only thing I don’t like about your name, @TheWebPsych, is that it always makes me think of that Ant & Dec song.

Nathalie: Oh. ‘Psych the Mic’ ‘Rock the mic, Psych.’ I love that. Wow, we’re showing our age. Shit. I love that song.

Chris: Excellent. Well listen, thank you very much for your time, I know it’s been a busy week, but it was really nice talking to you. And I hope some people sign up for your course.

Nathalie: Oh, wicked. Thank you. All right, well and enjoy all the rest of your weekend.

Chris: All right, will do.

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