Know the behavioral psychology principles behind designs

Have you bought anything recently because it was available on a limited time offer? Do you get influenced by what your friends buy, read, recommend or like?

The way we (human beings) interact, react, respond, and experience the world around us is studied in detail and used in every aspect of designing software and products. All the products, brands, services that we use today have made use of research insights from behavioral psychology. The role of psychology plays a key role in the field of design. A good understanding of human behaviors helps designers to create designs that are user oriented. That’s why we have the human-centered design, user-centered design, empathy-driven design and so on which emphasize the need to know users.

There are many principles of psychology that are used in the design field. Let’s look at some of the most common principles that are used to make our lives (products/services) better.

Persuasion theory

This is one of the most common techniques used to make interfaces communicate effectively with users. You have seen recommendations ( people who bought this also bought this, hurry! limited offer, the sale lasts only two days, only a few seats left, etc.) sales with a timer, recommended by experts, celebrities, and peers all are persuasion in action. we owe a lot to the Greeks, Aristotle, Robert Cialdini and his persuasion theories that have helped us persuade users and know them better.

Hick’s Law

Formulated by psychologists William Edmund Hick and Ray Hyman in 1952. This law states that “the time taken to make a decision increases with the number and complexity of choices available”. When users are presented with many options, they tend to get confused, sometimes take more time to complete a task, at times they even leave the task without completing it. More options overwhelm the users and hence we see limited options or options categorized for ease of understanding and comprehension.

Cognitive overload

We process information in our limited capacity, too many choices, options are not easy to make sense of at a time. When the amount of information exceeds our processing capacity, it hinders our performance, adds to the frustration and confusion. That’s why we see drop-down options having a certain limit, the number of tabs on a page has a limit, complex tasks are generally broken down into simple steps, forms are divided into separate sections for easy data collection. All these are examples for reducing cognitive overload.

Gestalt Principles

It explores how elements are perceived in relation to each other visually. The gestalt principles focus mainly on how design elements are grouped together. Proximity, Similarity, Closure, Continuity, Figure & ground, Visceral reactions, the psychology of Color and Shapes help us make designs more intuitive and relatable to all users.

MILLER’S LAW- Information Chunking

Miller’s Law predicts that the average person can only keep 7 (± 2) items in their working memory. Cognitive psychologist George Miller who studied short-term memory discussed in detail about the limit of short-term memory. This principle has been greatly used in design to create intuitive user experiences.

Because of this law, we see information being chunked into meaningful categories, groups, sections that help us understand the information. Information chunking helps users to scan content easily thereby select what interest them. If you notice carefully phone numbers are written in a manner that is easy to remember by splitting the numbers into smaller groups(example:123 456 7654 ), the address is written in a format that aids in comprehension.

JAKOB’S LAW-Mental Models

Jakob’s Law states that users spend most of their time on other sites, and they prefer your site to work the same way as all the other sites they already know. In other words, the common term that we hear is mental models. Users have the tendency to develop an expectation of design patterns based on their cumulative experience from other websites. Because of this principle, we see designers follow common design patterns across websites that are intended to serve the same purpose. All banking sites, e-commerce sites, or hotel websites follow common interactions. Understanding and designing for the mental models are a key in making a product/service successful.

The Von Restorff Effect

The Von Restorff Effect states that the oddball out is the one that gets remembered. In design when you want a certain element to stand alone from the rest or when you want users to look/click on a certain section, we see this theory in use. That’s why we see the call to action buttons/hyperlinks being colored differently than other elements in the same page to call for user’s attention.

Having a good understanding of behavioral psychology and neuroscience helps in designing products and services that are useful. When designs are informed by psychology and user insights it surely helps in making a user’s life easy.