Using Ethos, Pathos, and Logos to Design Effective Websites


All websites persuade a visitor to do something. All websites call a user to perform a certain action. Some websites try to persuade a user to buy poop. (Unfortunately not joking.) Some more dignified websites encourage a user to read about philosophy. (http://plato.stanford.edu) Every single website exists to influence a user’s actions. Websites either do this actively with an explicit call to action (Send your friends poop!) or more passively (like just by plainly offering philosophy articles.)

Speaking of philosophy, famous Greek thinker Aristotle stated 2000 years ago that the there are three pillars of persuasion, or tenets that the concept of persuasion is based upon. These pillars are ethos, pathos, and logos.

Aristotle first came up with the concepts of pathos, ethos, and logos.

Greek lesson time! (Well, not really. The words are so commonly used it might as well be considered English now.) Anyway, let’s examine what each of these terms means. Aristotle referred to orators when he spoke about persuasion, so let’s assume that there is some random anonymous speaker anxiously standing nearby who I will refer to.

Ethos pertains to the credibility of the speaker.

Pathos refers to the emotional appeal of the speaker.

Logos concerns the logic of the speaker.

But how does web design relate to all of this? Well, a website, much like our random, anxious, anonymous, and non-existent orator, is a communication vessel. Now let’s look at ethos, pathos, and logos again and translate them into web design speak.

Ethos is the professionalism of a website.

Pathos is the ability of a website to connect with its users.

Logos is the information that a website presents.

Throughout the rest of the article, I’m going to look at each of these concepts individually, and show you how you can implement each of them in your website.

1. Establishing Credibility with Ethos

The design of a website establishes ethos. A well-made, professional design exudes credibility. I’m going to look over a few main parts of a website that are the cornerstone of ethos, providing some practical tips to help you improve your website’s professionalism, trustworthiness, and credibility.

Use Professional Photos

Make sure to have photos that accurately represent your site. I cringe whenever I see a site that blatantly uses stock photos in the wrong contexts. For example, I visited a local restaurant’s site recently. Instead of taking a photo of their food to show what they make, they just displayed a stock photo of chicken. Don’t stuff like that do that. Please.

Yeah, that photo was totally taken at your restaurant.

Choose Appropriate Fonts

Choosing an impactful font combination can make your site immediately look better. Fonts add character to a site. For example, you can make your site seem lively and fun, or with a simple change of fonts, you can make it look formal and academic. I recommend going on Google Fonts and choosing a couple of fonts that complement each other. If you’re not really sure what fonts combine tastefully, check out this website: http://fontpair.co.

Register a Custom Domain

I think most businesses get this right, but I still see this way too often. Nothing says unprofessional more than a mybusiness.weebly.com or even mybusiness.blogspot.com domain. It shows that you couldn’t pay for a domain name or do the work to acquire one. URLs like that shout, “Hey, I went on weebly.com for five minutes and I chose a theme and added my business name. I also didn’t feel like paying.” Basically, having a non-custom URL does not reflect well on your business.

Having a professional design makes users trust your business. Establishing yourself as trustworthy persuades users that you know what you are doing. Dr. Stephen Covey (Author of Seven Habits of Highly Effective People) stated:

Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.

The fact is that people are more likely to do business with those they trust. Design passively tells the user whether they can trust you or not, design establishes the ethos of your website.

2. Connecting with Users through Pathos

A company’s website doesn’t matter as much when it comes to pathos. What does matter, however, is the company’s web presence.

Pathos is all about connection with the audience, creating a bond with users. I’ve collected some examples of companies that do this extremely well.

Nike

As a corporate behemoth, Nike networks with its customers surprisingly well. Looking at their Instagram account, we see @nike has 15 million followers, the most of any brand on Instagram. These followers willingly look at Nike content everyday. Most pictures have around 2,000 comments and 350,000 likes. I think it’s pretty obvious, but that is a positive way to engage with your users. If a user sees Nike in their newsfeed all day and engages with the posts, they are much more likely to buy Nike products over another brand. This is pathos at work.

Taco Bell

I feel like Taco Bell’s social media strategy is talked about a lot among the web development community, but I still want to touch on it. Taco Bell utilizes Twitter to engage with its customers in an amiable way.

If you glance through their Twitter feed, you’ll find that they love to retweet their customers. And what do these retweets do? Well, it’s a simple way to show the customers that they are important. I could tell you that I would be pretty stoked if my tweet was retweeted by a company with 1.55 million followers.

Taco bell loves to retweet their customers.

Again, by socializing with their customers, they are forming bonds that will make a customer implicitly more likely to eat at Taco Bell.

We can see how these two brands are using their web presences in unique ways to connect with customers. Now what can you take away from this? Well one obvious way is to set up social media accounts for your business. Use these social media accounts to make your customers feel important, and interact with them when they reach out.

The next step should be place links to these accounts on your websites so your visitors know that they can interact with you. Connecting with users is worthless if they don’t know that they can contact you.

Another way of engaging visitors is through blogging. If you own a business that has the potential to create and curate stimulating content, setting up and maintaining a blog could be a could be an worthwhile way to achieve pathos.

For example, Yelp publishes interesting pieces on their engineering blog. They learn a lot developing their technologies. Visitors can read content that explains how Yelp develops, builds, and maintains apps and websites. Once again, this forms a tie between the visitor and the site.

Yelp publishes informative content on their engineering blog.

3. Informing Users with Logos

(The greek word “Logos”, not the graphic design “Logos”)

You have to tell a user why they’re at your site. You also have to provide this information in an easily accessible way. I really love what High Street Deli has done with the information presented on their website.

If you look at the top of the page, you’ll notice that they have their phone number and address right up top. The deli recognized that this is the absolutely critical information that most visitors need to see when they visit the site. The navigation is clear, and leads to exactly the information that you expect. Having clear navigation with crucial information front and center is a simple and effective way to promote logos.

Now let’s talk about responsiveness for a minute. Part of logos in web design is the accessibility of information. Your website should provide infromation comprehensibly on smartphones, tablets, laptops, and desktops. Any device a user visits your site on should be able to display information in a clear, concise, and comprehensible way.

Let’s look at ESPN.com. This is their desktop site that cleanly shows a user most everything that they would want to see.

Now this is their mobile site. It may show less information than the desktop site, however it shows the most critical news. If a user wants the less important scores and news, all they have to do is click on “Now” or “Favorites.”

Your website needs to adapt the information for all screen sizes, but also needs to prioritize some data that you think is more important.

By providing interesting content and making it easily attainable, ESPN passively persuades their users to read articles. (Which drives ad revenue.)

Finally let’s talk about Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Most people use Google to attain information. For example, if I wanted to know how to play with a cat, I would search it. I would then then click the first link that would come up. (Which is this, by the way.)

Awwwwwwwww

Making your site optimized for Google and other search engines is a huge part of implementing logos. I’m not going to go into detail about how to optimize your site, but I will say that Google is getting really good at recognizing sites that it expects its users will like. Here is the best SEO advice I ever received: Maintain and regularly update engaging and useful content on your site. Google knows that content is king, and their rankings reflect that mantra. All other SEO tips are secondary.

If you want to learn more about SEO, make sure to check out Search Engine Watch’s Guide and Business Insider’s Guide.

Wrapping Up

Well, we’ve seen today how we can effectively utilize the three pillars of persuasion: ethos, pathos, and logos to create impactful websites that mobilize users.

We can design our websites with professionalism in mind to establish ethos. We saw how pathos allowed us to connect with users, socializing with them through social media accounts and perhaps blogging. Finally, we saw how we can use logos to provide valuable, beneficial and accessible content.

As I said at the beginning of this article, websites exist to persuade. ESPN.com desires users to read articles, Amazon.com wants customers to buy products, and Youtube.com hopes for people to watch videos.

You must understand that your business’s website, whether you recognize it or not, persuades a visitor to do something. Taking control of persuasion requires successfully and tactically combining ethos, pathos, and logos. These three concepts, when properly implemented, will drive business. You will see users staying on your site longer, you will notice visitors engaging with your brand in a meaningful way, and you will ultimately experience more customers buying your products or services.


Gabe Roeloffs wrote this article.

If you recommend this, I will send you a kitten.

Maybe.

Thanks for reading.