Psychological Barriers Every Designer Should Know About
Whether you are a graphic, industrial or user-experience designer, you should start by understanding the end-user. You must walk in their shoes, and see with their eyes.
To a certain extent, user personas can help. After all, knowing the typical user’s skill and knowledge levels, abilities, attitudes, and personality traits are invaluable. However, before you get to that point, you have to overcome a set of psychological barriers.
In this series, we will talk about the psychology of design. From vision to perception, attention, and cognition, there are some universal human truths. If you factor those into your thinking, your design will be seen, used, and shared by more people. Let’s go with the first one.
What is it?
When asked where he looks at while defending an off-ball player, Michael Jordan said,
“I don’t look at the player or the ball. I look at space in between. That way, I can see them both.”
Here, Jordan is referring to “peripheral” vision. We all have two types of vision: the central vision that helps us see details, and peripheral vision that we use to indirectly look at things.
Our central vision is super sensitive. For instance, it can detect more than 10,000 million unique colors. You can read minuscule letters, see tiny insects. But for those to happen, you must look at an object directly.
Move your focus six degrees to the left or right, and you can no longer read or detect colors! On a computer screen, that distance is about just five characters.
If you want your users to read a word that falls under their peripheral vision, you have to increase the font size. How much? By 4 times for a 6-degree offset, and 90 times for a 30-degree one!
Why should you care?
People use peripheral— not central — vision when they look at a computer screen. That means your design’s overall harmony is as important as the visuals, colors, and fonts you choose.
How to use it to your advantage?
- When designing a website, an app, or a brochure, don’t focus only on what you want the user to look at. Try to conceptualize the page as a whole.
- Peripheral vision detects motion quickly. If you want the user to concentrate on something that falls on the periphery — say a display ad — then your best bet is to animate it. Likewise, high contrast colors could work.
- Our unconscious mind doesn’t ignore the elements that appear in peripheral vision. That’s why if you want users to concentrate on a particular part of the screen, don’t put any animation elsewhere.