Home Theories Reciprocity


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When we are given help, we tend to return it somehow to the person who offered us the favour. Similarly, when we are given a gift, we are most likely to pay our gratitude by giving that person a gift too. And have you ever noticed that we tend to say ‘yes’ to people we owe something to? This human behaviour is recognized as ‘Reciprocity’ in social psychology.

Reciprocity is a social conception which highlights ‘we should repay or return a favour for what another person has offered us.’ We have been raised highlighting that it’s the right thing to do according to our norm system in social behaviour.

Table of contents:
  1. Why is Reciprocity important in website designing? 
  2. Psychology and Reciprocity theory in Website Designing 
  3. Conclusion 

Why is Reciprocity important in website designing? 

The user experience generated by a website has a direct bearing on how a visitor may act, whether it creates a positive or negative impact. Any first user who lands on your website has a low trust level on you, and it happens unintentionally. The challenge is to make them feel that they are valued and you're capable enough to give them what they seek for. 

To leave a positive impression, you can use the principle of Reciprocity. You can respond to the users by generating a positive value for them before attempting to bother them with too many requests such as to sign up, to fill a form etc. The smart way is to make the user feel that they have been given a favour by your website, so they are obliged to return it. This way, Reciprocity can be used to enhance user experience followed by Conversion Rate Optimization. (CRO) 

There is another aspect of this concept that can't be overlooked. Just like we tend to return a favour, we tend to return revenge too. If a visitor feels like he was tricked by your website to sign up but provided them with no value. In such a case, there's a high possibility that he/she may leave negative feedback on you. Therefore, understanding the principle of Reciprocity is important to know how social psychology can be used for your advantage or to avoid any disadvantages accompanied by it. 

Psychology and Reciprocity theory in Website Designing 

Make the First Interaction Surprisingly Simple 
Creating a simple first interaction is absolutely vital to stop your visitors leaving the site in no time. Your focus should be on setting a positive tone before a user spends too much time or provides information on your site. For example, your website should be designed in a way that any user is led to their expectations without too much interference which will enable the visitors to return the favour by signing up, purchasing your product or service etc. It's one of the secrets of popular websites for conversion rate optimization. (CRO) 

Be quality-oriented with quality information 
Make sure the information provided is accurate, complete, fit the purpose, consistent and timely. Quality information contains all these characteristics. It's one of the best ways to persuade your visitors to engage positively. Also, with quality information, you can present yourself with authenticity towards conversion rate optimization. (CRO) After all, nobody likes to waste their time or efforts on unreliable information. 

Give more than expected 
Creating more value than expected is an ideal way to invoke Reciprocity. Enabling you visitors to use your products or services free for a certain period of time has a greater impact to enhance conversion rate optimization than you can ever imagine. Once the user feels that you've created a great value for them beyond their expectations, they don't have other options than returning the favour by engaging positively. 

Free information is invaluable 
Providing free sources of content is another way to make people feel valued. You can integrate a newsletter, valuable articles and other types of free content to your website and studies have shown that free contents are appreciated by many users. Such users are more likely to visit your site again and again as the result of the concept of Reciprocity. 

Assist the users with a live demo 
This may not be applicable for all the sites but is great for businesses who sell products or online tools and software. By integrating a live demo you tell people that you understand their needs. This will save time and also help you to generate more value. So, they tend to return the favour by signing up, purchasing your product, subscribe to the newsletter etc. Seeing a demo has a great power to increase positive user engagement towards conversion rate optimization. 

Let the customers start right away 
This is a clean-cut example of how Reciprocity can be used to your favour. Let's take the example of an online app. Some applications ask to accept push notifications right after we download them disabling us to use the app effectively if done otherwise. This can make people reluctant to cooperate. Who would ever want to accept all push notifications even without knowing whether they're going to use the app or not? This can create a negative effect on your business. The ideal way is to let the people start right away with the app and experience it before stuffing them with too many requests. This way, you can build trust and create a satisfying user experience. Once the users are happy with the clean start of their experience, they will definitely reciprocate by accepting your requests. 


Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) is the ultimate concern of any business when creating their website. More the people visit your site repeatedly, the more business opportunities you create. According to social psychology, Reciprocity principle explains the tendency of the people to respond positively to the favours we create. Knowing this behaviour of people can be used effectively in website designing to enhance CRO. There are plenty of ways to create value by using the concept of Reciprocity to enhance user experience. Authentic user experience creates invaluable business opportunities. Therefore, using Reciprocity in website designing is important to enhance positive user engagement and to block negative user effects. 

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