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How Psychology Can Influence Good UX Design

How Psychology Can Influence Good UX Design
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A psychologist shares insights on how understanding certain key elements of human behavior can lead to more relevant and effective user experience design.

Paloma M. Vazquez
  • 17 october 2011

A recent article in UX magazine offered a psychologist’s perspective on UX design — discussing how considering the way human beings think and work can lead to stronger, more relevant UX design. As always, we’ve culled some of the key insights and suggestions from the piece below.

  • People don’t want to work or think more than they have to: Use progressive disclosure to offer people a little bit of information at first, allowing them to choose if they want/need additional details. Keep things simple; use research to determine what it is that people really need from the site/experience, and keep the functionality limited to what they need. If it’s overwhelming, most people will walk away. Think ‘ease of use.’
  • People are social: Obviously; but this goes beyond ‘like’ or share on Twitter. Some key nuances to consider in designing for instinctively human social behavior include the law of synchronous behavior — when we do something together at the same time, it bonds us together – so if you can design for a collective online experience in your product/service, do. Additionally, we feel the need to be reciprocal – so if you want me to fill out a form, give me something I want before you ask me to do that. And lastly, show me how to do what you’re asking me to do — my mirror neurons will facilitate my imitating that behavior.
  • Unconscious processing: Framing cues work. A visual of a beach coupled with the word ‘retirement’ will make me walk slower because mental processing occurs unconsciously. Choose your words, colors and imagery to frame and elicit how you want people to feel about your experience, and the actions you want them to take.
  • We create mental models: This may be the strongest reason for which to conduct user research — we approach familiar tasks with a mental model that drives our attitude and feelings about it. These mental models influence our ease in using a particular interface. Research and help determine if the interface can be designed to match most users’ mental models — or if the more complex task of changing people’s mental models by adopting a new behavior is possible.
  • Visual system: Group related items together to guide the eye to where it should look. Design for the canonical perspective — we recognize objects on a screen best when they are slightly angled and have the perspective of being slightly above. And avoid combining red and blue — they’re difficult for the human eye to look at together, which makes sense if you think about how we used to create old-school 3D images.

What we found most interesting — beyond the sheer intuitiveness and helpfulness of the recommendations — is the employment of a different but highly related discipline (psychology) to lead us towards more useful design for the people its meant to serve.

UX Magazine: The Psychologist’s View of UX Design

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