• Emily Malone

The psychology of a damn good user experience (UX)

There are some principles of design that are deeply rooted in human psychology. Invision like to call these ‘phantom guides’. These are what drive our subconscious and attention to the precise point where the designer wants it to be. And a lot of the time we don’t even notice.

It’s pretty much fuelled by psychological predictions of human behaviour, mixed with some carefully thought-out designs. These designs help users connect with your website on a deeper level, so it resonates more with them.

We need to design for purpose, rather than decorating for fun. Because in order to get great human interaction, we need to first understand what drives us all. So, here are eight observations on human behaviour to help with that:

  1. We don’t want to work more than we have to

We’re all very, very lazy; it’s just fact that people will do the least amount of work possible to get a task done. It’s better to keep things simple by throwing people a little bit of information, then giving them the option to learn more. The fancy term for this is ‘progressive disclosure’. Also, you need to pay attention to the affordance of the objects on the page. If something is clickable, make sure it looks like it is! Make it as easy as possible for your users to navigate your site.

  1. We’re social

Ratings and reviews are powerful tools on websites because people will always look for guidance on what they should do. Social validation in the form of testimonials is key if you want people to feel comfortable buying from you.

  1. We have the attention spans of goldfish

And I’m not joking. In fact, the average human attention span has shrunk by nearly a quarter in just 15 years, leaving it at an embarrassing 8.25 seconds. For the record, that’s actually shorter than a goldfish.

It turns out that a visitor will typically leave a web page in just 10-20 seconds, which isn’t really enough time to convince them that they should be using your services, is it?

You can use senses to grab attention. Bright colours, eye-catching fonts, images; people are so easily distracted in this digital day and age. Draw attention to the things you want them to engage with, and keep it simple.

  1. We have primal needs 

As humans, we’re all instinctively searching for food, shelter, security, and reproduction. All these needs make for predictable reactions to certain stimuli.

Above is a great example of ‘shelter’. Doesn’t it make you feel all warm and fuzzy?

So, enriching your designs with clues to primal needs will gain you much more attention. Don’t overdo it on the ‘reproduction’ though. If you’re wondering what I mean by that, see below:

  1. The devil is in the details

Gestalt psychology laws state that our minds tend to look for certain features in a composition – similarity, proximity, closure, symmetry, common fate, and continuity – to identify a message. This is the reason hierarchically similar functions and properties in a user interface, like navigation elements get places close together, appear and function similarly, and work as a whole. When we look at a big picture, we see many scenes composed of loads of groups of objects, consisting of parts, and those of even smaller parts. It’s a fancy way of saying the smaller things make up the bigger thing, so it’s important to concentrate on those little bits.

  1.  Colours trigger different emotions in us

Colour psychology is the study of hues determining human behaviour. It’s widely used in marketing and branding. Colour can be used to influence human emotions and perceptions of a company. Studies suggest that people make a subconscious judgement about a product or service within 90 seconds of initial viewing, and up to 90% of that assessment is based on colour alone.

The general model of colour psychology relies on six basic principles:

  1. Colour can carry a specific meaning.

  2. Colour meaning is either learned or biologically innate.

  3. Perceiving a colour makes us automatically evaluate it.

  4. The evaluation process forces colour-motivated behaviour.

  5. Colour usually exerts its influence automatically.

  6. Colour meaning and effect has to do with context as well.

Fun fact: most hyperlinks are blue because almost no one has a blue deficiency. This means everyone can see blue, or more accurately, almost everyone can distinguish blue as a colour different from others.
  1. We want safety and familiarity

Using easily recognisable forms to create a feeling of familiarity is another way to improve your website’s UX.  Making sure the user doesn’t get lost or confused on your site is crucial. Let the user know how to take their next action with familiar fields.

When creating a form, ensure that you provide examples of how text should be formatted, be specific with your error messages, and ask for the right amount of information according to the stage in the journey.

Top tip: Start with small amounts of info at first, then add a little more each time they fill out another form. It scares people away when they’re asked to give out too much information about themselves right away, and besides, you don’t need to ask everything at first contact! That would be a little creepy, don’t you think?

  1. We respond most to words that promote action

Quality, persuasive copy for your buttons is another big thing. It might seem like a small part of it all, but it’s crucial to use adjectives and crystal clear language to ensure your visitor is sure on what to do to get what they want.

The recommended action copy to use to convert more visitors are:

  1. “Get”/”Grab” something vs. “Buy” or “Download” or “submit”

  2. “Add to cart” vs. “Buy Now” (There’s no feeling of obligation to buy involved)

  3. “Start”

  4. “Begin”

  5. “Find”

  6. “Become”

  7. “Learn”

  8. “Receive”

  9. “Launch”

  10. “Achieve”

  11. “Discover”

  12. and of course, a healthy dose of “Free”

In fact, the 5 most persuasive words in the English language are:

  1. “You” (we are vain creatures who love it when something’s all about ourselves)

  2. “Free” (of course, everyone loves a bargain)

  3. “Because” (remember when your favourite way to torture your parents was to incessantly blurting “why? why? why?”)

  4. “Instantly” (we’re insanely impatient when it comes to something we want)

  5. “New” [we like being up to speed, or even better, ahead of the curve)

It also turns out that form buttons which say “click here” or “go” score nearly 30% and 25% better than “submit”, respectively. I’m guessing that’s because it sounds like an actual human being is speaking to you, rather than a demanding robot.

So there you have it, eight observations on human psychology that’ll help you build a damn fine user experience. Need more help planning a UX that’ll resonate with your ideal users? Speak to us today! We love that stuff.