Psychology and UX, 10 Things every Designer Should Know
Dec 14, 2018 5 min read

Psychology and UX, 10 Things every Designer Should Know

As we already know, User Experience (UX) is all about the experience for a user on a web application. This experience, if it is positive, is key to success for a digital product. So, UX designers have been doing time-consuming research for a long time to understand user behaviours, habits and demands. But, there are already various easy-to-remember principles to help UX designers get into psychology and understanding people. Below I've collected my ten favourites for you.

1. Keep It Organized

If you ask people to remember as many terms from a list in a short period of time, they most likely come up with about five or six words. That's completely normal because it's stored in our short-term or working memory. What's interesting about it, is that these words are very often from the beginning and the end of the list and rarely from the middle. This means: don't overload a page and don't ask them to do anything else until they've completed their task. Organise elements in categories no larger than 9, but preferably around 5 chunks and make sure that there is enough white space and visual hierarchy.

2. Give Feedback

Imagine trying to hit a target but you cannot see it, pretty annoying right? The human body is equipped with numerous basic feedback mechanisms like touch, visual and auditory sensors. This shows how important feedback is. Feedback needs to be immediate. If the delay is too long people tend to give up quickly or switch to another site/product. Poor feedback can be worse, too much feedback can be annoying, distracting and irritating.

3. The Viewport

People tend to scan screens based on their past experiences and have a mental model of what they want to see and where they want to see it. This means: design a page so that people can move in their normal reading pattern. Avoid patterns who let the user jump back and forth to accomplish their task. Put, let's say a search field, on the top right because people learned from previous experiences (Jacob's Law) to expect the search field there. And last but not least, avoid putting anything important at the edges, because people tend not to look there.

4. The Similarity Principle

Patterns are a key element when working on a screen or page. Things that have the same visual characteristics like, shape, colour or orientation are automatically grouped together in the brain of a user. This simple rule makes it easier for the user to understand the whole scheme faster and gives them a feeling of satisfaction. Users don't want to spend a lot of time learning how a complex interface works. So a screen which can be quickly scanned intuitively has much more chances to retain in the users mind.

5. It's All About Faces

In our brain there is a special part for recognising faces which is called the fusiform face area (FFA). This area allows us to identify faces more quickly than objects and is near the brain's emotional center. This means that if there is a face on a website we tend to look at the face rather than the other elements. So we can visually control and guide where the user should look at.

6. Expectation and Interaction

When we interact with other people we automatically follow social rules which we have learnt during our life. We keep eye contact, smile and are friendly overall so the other person feels comfortable. These exact same rules apply for online interaction. You have to make the users feel comfortable. For example if you don't get a response from a website, the site loads too long or you don't get feedback at all, that's like a person ignoring you standing right next to you. Not really nice right? So, keep in mind when designing a product to think about interacting with another person, what would he or she say, ask, respond and so on.

7. Mapping or the Relationship Between Elements

An example for a natural universal mapping is the following: moving ones hand upwards signifies more, moving it down signifies less. We should remember these gestures when we design a website or application. But be aware that many natural mappings are in fact specific to a particular culture. What is natural for us, is not necessarily natural for others. Always keep the user group in mind.

8. Selective Attention

There is a very famous video example called the Invisible Gorilla which shows how people are not aware of seeing something they actually saw. This simple experiment tells us that it's very important for designers to establish a system how a website is visually structured. The reason is that users may not even realise that they are looking at a different screen after they clicked let's say on a link. So, if you want to be sure that people notice the change, make it clearly visible.

9. Knowing Who Needs What and When

Provide only the information people need at the moment and give them a little information at a time so you are not overwhelming them, but do your research. It is very important to know what most people will be looking for and therefore you need to know the target audience. If you have to decide on clicks versus thinking, use more clicks and less thinking to make it as simple as possible.

10. Happily Ever After

It's a fact that people process information best in story form. This brings the importance of UX writing into mind. Keep in mind that stories are not just for fun, even dry information wrapped into a story can be made more interesting, understandable and memorable for a user.


At last we shouldn't forget that the psychological material also involves a time factor, which adds a whole new dimension to it. Audiences repeatedly engage with a website or application over a period of time, so the designers need to make sure that products evolve and makes progress.

Besides all the practical and technical information we gather, I think it's very important to understand people. How are they thinking, acting and learning? Only if you try to really understand people you can build products which are useful and delight. The greatest joy comes from positive and successful experiences.