Jeremy Smith Feb 19, 2019 11:20:05 AM 23 min read

11 Psychological Barriers Hurting Your Landing Page Conversions

We don’t often think about the things on our site that could be a huge turnoff. Most of the time we’re optimizing this, tweaking that, and testing the other, but we don’t realize that our site might have latent psychological barriers that turn users away and hurt our landing page conversions.

This is a huge deal. As I’ve said before, friction is a major problem in e-commerce, the biggest problem, actually. If we want to eliminate friction, then we have to look under the hood at the common mistakes we might be making that send negative psychological signals to users.

In this article, I’ve outlined 11 of the most common psychological barriers to landing page conversions. As you go through this article, determine which psychological barriers might be present on your site, and how you can eliminate them.

1.  Using all caps.

If you’re reading a headline or landing page, and SEE SOMETHING IN ALL CAPS, what’s your reaction?

You might feel like you’re being yelled at, or that someone is trying to push you emotionally or psychologically. Most of the time, all caps is viewed as a psychological trigger, generating feelings of fear, anxiety or anger.

The condition is so real that researchers at Penn State have conducted studies to test the effect of emotional all-caps messages upon readers.

It’s a long-held principle of etiquette that you shouldn’t use all caps in your emails. It’s no different on landing pages. All caps (without stylistic amelioration) is a turn off.

Sheesh, even the Navy commanded that their communiqués abandon all-caps conventions.


It’s fascinating that a typographic convention has inspired so much distaste, but it has. You can get a sampling of the feelings by reading a few sentences of this New Republic article:

The “caps lock” key makes it unreasonably easy for us to be rude (even, sometimes, inadvertently). “Caps lock” has, in fact, inspired more controversy than most keys. Getting rid of it is one of Matthew J.X. Malady’s top suggestions for improving the keyboard. “The key is a nuisance, its prime real estate leading us to depress it unintentionally and often unwittingly,” he complains at Slate. The "caps lock" key has inspired larger-scale protests, too. Caps lock is a psychological horror that needs to leave your landing page RIGHT THIS MINUTE!

All caps is a psychological horror that needs to leave your landing page RIGHT THIS MINUTE!

2.  Warning pages.

I almost didn’t include this, because it seemed ludicrous. If your landing page, article, or website registers a warning message in a browser, it’s sending a clear message that your website is dangerous.

There’s nothing if, and, or but about this. It’s a simple declaration that you’re done.

What tipped me in favor of actually including this point was the fact that I’ve had clients who actually wanted my services to improve their digital marketing. I go to their website, and what do I see?


No amount of conversion optimization or SEO is going to help.

3.  Providing too many choices.

If you give people too many choices — product, service tiers, etc.— then they will end up not choosing. To have too many choices is to make no choice.

This page provides customers with too many choices, and provides no way to trim down the excess:


If I’m going to buy a car, I want choices — but not like this.


(Image source)

If you want your customers to choose something, make it easy for them. Too many choices create a psychological burden that causes them to leave, not stay.

4.  Busy design.

Every landing page should have a clear and logical pathway that leads to a conversion. If you have too many elements, you are creating psychological confusion that derails a potential conversion.

This landing page below has way too many elements going on. It lacks a clear pathway, and may end up creating a bounce rather than compelling a conversion.
(Image from Pixsym)

A landing page needs a clear eye pathway that corresponds to the user’s needs and interest.

The best landing pages are the simplest landing pages.

5.  Gimmicky headlines.

Most people are smart. They’re too smart to be suckered by scammy headlines that offer totally unrealistic things.

For example, take this landing page. I love their simple design. Props. That’s genius. But what about that headline? Not for real.


(Image source)

I realize that the company is selling payday loans or something. But getting $800 "on the spot” is neither realistic nor believable.

As a side note, this company uses way too much orange and yellow. These colors actually have been known to heighten anxiety. Maybe that’s another reason why I hear warning bells when I listen to the page’s message.

6.  Materialistic hard-sells.

In a psychological issue that goes a level deeper, social psychologists and commentators have observed that the materialistic pursuit of more stuff is negatively correlated with happiness. In other words, more stuff doesn’t make us more happy.

As one Huffington Post report observed, “To some extent, most of us participate in consumer culture and value material possessions, and that's perfectly fine. But in excess, materialism can take a toll on your well-being, relationships and quality of life.”

Time Magazine put it bluntly:  “Buying more stuff actually makes you miserable.”

The New York Times just released a remarkably balanced article that says, “It’s time to opt out of impulse buying.”


(New York Times image)

When a website landing page flagrantly invites us to buy more, get more, shop now, order now, and get it today, we experience this innate thought that maybe more isn’t better. In fact, it might even be worse.

Besides the egregious design of this website, I feel myself recoiling at the appeals to buy more toys for my kids. It’s just a bit too over the top.

(Image source)

Hard sells that appeal to instant gratification and over-the-top materialism are probably going to be turnoffs.

7.  Requests for too much information.

Every successful landing page requests information from users. But when you start asking too much, psychological barriers go up:

  • Why are they asking for this information?
  • What will they do with it?
  • Why do they need my address?
  • What does this information have to do with the purchase?
  • Will they spam me?
  • Will people stalk me?
  • Can they triangulate my geographic position using this information?
  • What about the zombie apocalypse?


Keep your request for information to a minimum. Once you’ve asked for more than five pieces of data, you’re into dangerous territory. If you don’t need the information, don’t ask for it.

This landing page capture form asks for too much information by adding an extraneous “details” field. What kind of details? Why? What do I write? Why is it here? It looks scary.

(Image source)

8.  Stock photos of users.

People are not inherently stupid. They can spot a stock photo of a user a mile away.

I’m sorry, but if you’re using stock photos of “users," you are sending a clear message to your potential customers:  “I’m a fraud.”

I’m pretty sure these people from this landing page aren’t real customers. “Hey, there, model from Shutterstock. How are you today? Good?”

(Image source)

And this woman doesn’t quite seem like the type.


(Image source)

You’re better off using a nondescript gray silhouette.


9.  Crappy design.

I’ll spare you the eye-popping pulse-raising examples. You can attest to this problem, because you’ve seen enough crappy designs to last you long enough.

Poor design erodes credibility. When a site lacks good design, users intuit that the site owner or designer lacks knowledge, skill or expertise. There’s simply no other way around this. Users have a psychological reaction to shoddy design. It doesn’t work.

Great design isn’t cheap, nor is it unreasonably expensive. You don’t have to settle for crappy design.

So don’t.

10.  Short copy.

There is plenty of debate in the conversion community over whether to have longform landing pages or short ones.

Whatever the case, there is a problem when the website copy is immodestly brief. A user goes to a landing page to get information that will aid in a purchase.  If there’s not enough information, the user’s trust will erode, and he or she may not convert.

The following landing page has a little bit of copy. It doesn’t seem like quite enough to answer my questions or increase my desire to buy:


(Image source)

This landing page, by contrast, has lots of content — infographic elements, images, videos, and other nice features. This inspires my trust far more.



11.  System popups (JavaScript dialogues).

Few things raise my blood pressure higher than these bad boys:


When I want to leave a page, I want to leave a page, and no amount of JavaScript wizardry is going to make me change my mind.

Because this technique has often been used by spammers, black hat SEOs, and sites of questionable content, it is widely considered to be negative. I haven’t found any statistics on how successful these popups are at saving conversions, but I seriously doubt their success.

If you are using a dialogue box like this, please let me know if you think it’s worth it. To me, and most others I’m aware of, it is a major psychological warning that your site is untrustworthy and seriously annoying.


Your goal is to eradicate friction on your site and remove every possible barrier to a conversion.

So think about people. How are their minds working? What concerns might they have? What might make them worry? Address their psychology, their mental processes and their internal drives.

This is where conversion optimization really begins to prove its value — at the point where you begin to see past “users” and start seeing your users.

So, check this list carefully, and find out if you’ve put up any of the psychological triggers affecting your landing page conversions:

1.  Using all caps. Stay calm and keep away from the caps lock key.

2.  Warning pages. Get rid of those viruses.

3.  Providing too many choices. Keep it to two or three, if you must.

4.  Busy design. Keep it simple, stupid.

5.  Gimmicky headlines. Just be honest.

6.  Materialistic hard-sells. Tell them the benefits; don’t beg that they buy.

7.  Requests for too much information. Only ask for the essentials.

8.  Stock photos of users. Don’t do it.

9.  Crappy design. Please don’t do it.

10.  Short copy. Make it longer.

11.  System popups (Javascript dialogues). Are you kidding?


Do you have any of those on your landing pages? What’s your experience with them?


Jeremy Smith

Digital marketer with a penchant for dance; helping clients see the light through the jungle of tweets since before Twitter was cool.