Aristotle's 3 Persuasive Appeals & How They Relate To User Experience 2

Aristotle’s 3 Persuasive Appeals & How They Relate To User Experience

Perfect product done and dusted? Great. High customer response rate and brilliant brand interaction? Sure. And most importantly, have you told your story? Erm, say what?

Yes, storytelling. A powerful and unique way of forging a long-lasting, persuasive relationship with your customer. Because it’s all about a long-term commitment. And to get to that level, you need to have emotional connectedness. So how do you get there? And more importantly, what’s in it for them? Why should this potential customer buy your product or engage with your superstar service or site?

To understand this, we need to go back to the beginning. And it all starts with Aristotle. That’s right. Over 2000 years old, Aristotle’s thoughts on effective communication may not seem all that current, but they don’t need to be.

Still regarded as the basics of rhetorics, Aristotle sees the backbone of persuasive power in 3 defining elements. It turns out he had this user experience thing pinned down long before the times of the internet.

So, what are the 3 persuasive appeals?

Aristotle’s 3 major appeals consist of: Ethos, Pathos, and Logos.

Aristotle claimed that these 3 persuasive elements are demonstrable when it comes to persuading someone of something. He saw these as a type of ethical strategy used when it came to public speaking. And it’s clear to see how these can relate to today’s user experiences in the digital arena.

But what exactly do the 3 appeals mean, and how can they be applied in the online world?

Let’s kick things off with Ethos.


As the name might suggest, Ethos appeals to ethics, morality and character, specifically your moral character. It looks at credibility and how much of that we bring into our words and presentation. It primarily centres around trust.

And how does this appeal relate to your own user experience? You know how when you first meet someone and you spend all your energy on making sure you create the best first impression of yourself?

Well, when it comes to your product or site, the same rules apply. You need to show the customer that you – yes, you – know exactly what you’re talking about. Your audience need to be convinced of just how much expertise you have in your area. And specifically? What it is that you can offer then when it comes to your product.

Oh, and a sprinkling of practical knowledge doesn’t go amiss. After all, you want your potential customer to feel as though they can put their trust in you. Essentially, you need to convey how much your care for your idea, product or service. And that manifests itself in oh so important, good intentions. Your user needs to see these.

So, once Ethos has been applied and you have trust tucked firmly under your UX belt, next, we move on to Pathos.


Are you an expert in using vivid language? Prone to the odd emotional outburst. Great! Pathos is all about appealing to your audience’s emotional needs.

And just how can Aristotle help your UX by way of applying Pathos? Well, it’s human nature for us to sympathise with one another’s needs and when this happens, it usually means we agree with that person’s opinion. Got a presentation at the ready? Cue the emotions! Make your audience feel what you feel.

Emotional narratives and visual imagery also play a vital part in when it comes to identifying the quality of a product or website’s user experience. When you use images that evoke meaning, your story takes on another chapter. There’s that storytelling coming into play.

Look at your user as though they are on a see-saw. The whole time they are looking through your site, trying to suss out why they should be snapping up your next big idea, they’re maintaining a balance and weighing up whether or not they feel able to make that ultra-important decision in becoming your user.

They see something negative? Oops, their feet are now planted firmly on the ground. But add some connotative meaning or significant visual imagery and, boom. They identify with your product and are soon reaching for what you’ve got.

So, trust has been secured and Pathos has meant that emotions have surely been felt, here comes Mr Logic himself; Logos.


Literally translated from Greek as ‘Appeals to Logic’, Logos is simply that. The statistics. The facts and figures. The informed ‘expert’ opinion. This is what your user wants to see.

Why will this aid in their overall user experience? Well, if your big claim is that your product or services helped customers save money, show them. We all have a logical part to us, and what’s more is that we like it.

So break down what you’re saying and offer your user easily digestible facts. But it needs to be relevant. Once a potential customer starts questioning these facts and quotations, this where you could lose them.

Basically, you need Logos because you need to back up your claim and further prove your point to the audience. This will also be your virtual shield when it comes to batting away any negativity.

So there you have it. Your 2000-year-old tools that can work exceedingly well in harmony to improve the overall user experience.

Far from tricking its digital users as a form of manipulation, the 3 fundamental principles of Ethos, Pathos and Lagos work to bring out the very characteristics that lay within us as humans already.

And let’s be honest, if your goal is to use these 3 appeals in a dishonest way, your user will soon be pointing the finger when their experience comes digitally crashing down.

The key to using these 3 appeals in a progressive way for your users, is to understand the way that they work and to always keep your persuasion honest. This will see you to a clear, credible, and most importantly, committed customer relationship.

Thanks, Aristotle.

Andrew Machin
Andrew Machin

With over 25 years’ experience in UX and digital strategy, Andrew has helped many national and global brands such as John Lewis, Harley Davidson, Johnson & Johnson, and Interflora create exceptional digital product experiences.

Through the success of such projects Andrew has received high-profile accolades that span innovation, strategy, and design, such as the Dadi Grand Prix Award and the Digital Impact Award for Innovation.

This experience has led to Andrew judging digital design awards, been featured in .net magazine, lecturing at Leeds university, and speaking at seminars and conferences across the UK.

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