The Nine Principles of UX Design Psychology: Can You Predict the Behavior of Your Users?

You design not a product, you design interaction with the user — the psychology for UX design

The Principle of Least Effort

The Principle of Least Effort is pretty simple and self-explanatory: people are looking for ways to complete tasks with the least possible effort. This principle applies not only to people but also to animals and even machines — the simplest algorithm is always the most attractive one. For example, if you have two paths that would get you from one place to another place, you will choose a shorter path given that they are equally safe and comfortable.

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What can you do as a UX designer to address this principle?

  1. When you have to explain something to your users, for instance, when onboarding them, instead of telling about it in the text, show your users an example. The greatest example of such a web design psychology practice is the onboarding process of Grammarly. Instead of looking at endless guidelines about how to use Grammarly or learning to go around the system by oneself, the user opens a demo document and learns about how to use the system on a real-life example.

The Principle of Perpetual Habit

The principle of perpetual habit states that people greatly rely on their memory and habit when doing this or that task. For instance, if you are a frequent flyer, you know that you go to check-in first and leave your luggage, then you go through a security check, then through the customs and duty-free, and then you approach the boarding gate. If for some reason, you arrived at the airport, and the whole process started not with check-in but with customs, you would grow confused, perplexed, and angry. The same applies to website and mobile app users — they want the things to be where they should be.

What can you do as a UX designer to address this principle?

1. Do not grow too desperate in your effort to make the website stand out. Keep the things traditional where they should be. For instance, the footer should be at the bottom of the page, and the side panel should be to the left.

The Principle of Socialization

Aristotle once said,

What can you do as a UX designer to address this principle?

  1. You absolutely must implement buttons for social media. Here, users can access your accounts on different social media platforms. This is beneficial for both you and your users. You increase social engagement, and your users get a convenient for them way to contact you.

The Principle of Emotional Contagion

Have you ever noticed that emotions are contagious? If a person you like is laughing out loud, you will be smiling. If somebody in a very well-made movie is crying, you will feel sad. This is the psychology of UX design and of human beings — we subconsciously take over the emotions and behaviors of other people, especially of those we like.

What can you do as a UX designer to address this principle?

Target one’s emotional self by showing them emotional pictures or telling them emotional stories. For instance, StoryTerrace features the stories of their customers, but they are not just about how successful their experience was but about how happy and joyful and emotionally important it turned out to be. For instance, there is a story of an elderly man who wrote his biography with the help of StoryTerrace. He admits that he wishes his parents and grandparents had written about their stories as well. The video of the man telling the story looks very professional, emotional, and almost movie-like. By appealing to the feeling everybody is familiar with — love to parents and grandparents, — StoryTerrace shows how important their services may be.

The Principle of Identity

All people need a sense of identity, a feeling of belonging, an understanding of who they are. This is why applications and websites with wallpapers are so popular — people customize their devices to feel unique. This is why people collect awards and medals — to feel appreciated and recognized. This is why people make friends — to feel associated with somebody.

What can you do as a UX designer to address this principle?

1. Develop your company brand. Use unique colors, logos, messages, slogans in order to underscore the uniqueness of your brand. Use photos to show the actual people behind your service or product. Send out newsletters, digests, or email discounts in order to remind your audience about your brand. Most importantly, position yourself as a one-of-a-kind brand: what is the unique value that you offer to your users?

The Principle of Beauty

Numerous psychological studies prove: beautiful people and beautiful things are always more loved and popular than unattractive ones. People choose books by their cover. Given the opportunity to choose, people choose beautiful places to travel to, beautiful houses to live in, and nice clothes to wear. Few people can stay away from pursuing beauty. The concept of “beautiful” is often associated with the words “expensive”, “successful”, and “high-quality”.

What can you do as a UX designer to address this principle?

In the psychology of web design, beauty is all about User Interface.

  1. Create a design system, and follow it closely. Do not mix fonts, colors, button styles, navigation elements, icons — stick to the style guide. For instance, this is how the design system for the previous version of our website looked like:
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The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two

“The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two: Some Limits on Our Capacity for Processing Information” is a psychological article published by George A. Miller — the cognitive psychologist at Harvard University. According to this paper, a person can hold from five to nine things in their short-term memory. The “Seven Plus or Minus Two” rule is also known as Miller’s rule.

What can you do as a UX designer to address this principle?

1. Do not make people remember more than they can remember. If your website is an online store, you should feature from five to nine products per page. If you develop a game, do not make people focus on more than seven things at a time. If for some reason you have to include many similar elements — group them.

The Psychology of Mistakes

All people make mistakes. Mistakes spark a wide range of emotions in people’s minds, chiefly negative ones — from sadness and anxiety to procrastination and apathy. Regardless of its severity, a mistake is still a mistake, and it is annoying. What are the mistakes in terms of user experience design psychology? These are counter-intuitive, unclear, or misleading scenarios, which prevent people from achieving their goals with the software. For instance, there is an online store of eco-products I truly love, but every time I make an order, I face a certain difficulty. Once I proceed to online payment, I have to include the order number in the payment description, but this number is nowhere to be found. It is neither on the payment page nor on the check-out page — I still have no idea where to find it. As a result, I am struggling to make a purchase and looking for a different store.

What can you do as a UX designer to address this principle?

1. Try to predict where users may make mistakes, which function or flow may seem obscure or confusing, and eliminate such uncertainties. The easiest way to do so is to perform user testing.

Focus, Attention, and Concentration

Normally, the attention span of an adult is from ten to twenty minutes. After this short time, people tend to lose focus and concentration and get distracted by their own thoughts or the things around them. The job of a UI/UX designer is to grab users’ attention and to retain it for as long as needed. To do so, you have to reduce distractions and break the monotonous routine.

What can you do as a UX designer to address this principle?

1. Do not use random pop-ups, banners, or sounds in order not to distract your users. It is very annoying when you open a website and get attacked by multiple pop-ups, sounds, chatbot windows, cookie notifications, discount banners, and flashy offers.

To Wrap Up

Once again, UI/UX design is all about human psychology. You design not a product — you design interaction with the user. This is why you have to know your users, their human nature, their inclinations, weaknesses, strong points, and fears.



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