Any web site must be useable to be useful. People must be able to find what they’re looking for and get things done. A website with poor usability makes users frustrated, feel stupid or both. The likelihood of them returning drops, especially if they can find an alternative website to visit. As the web matures usability is improving. Experience and knowledge in what works and what users like is becoming more common. A usable website is no longer enough, the bar is slowly shifting from – can users do something, to will they do something. Building a website that converts browsers into customers is now critical to success. Of course this stuff has traditionally been the bread and butter of a marketing team; but as roles blur and attention shifts, web designers, usability experts and software engineers need to understand these concepts too.
Designing for user engagement in this way is often called designing for persuasion, emotion and trust or PET for short. US company Human Factors has popularised this approach and offers specific training. If you want to dip you toe in the water Stephen Anderson has produced some great looking cards to help start thinking about these concepts. Enjoy.