10 psychological design principles

You have probably already heard that design is most effective when fit with the knowledge of human psychology. Your attention is given to the derivation of 10 psychological principles that can be used to improve the aesthetic perception, convenience and understanding of your projects.

1. Visceral reactions

The first emotional reaction occurs in the central nervous system. These reactions affect our behavior at the subconscious level. That is, we do not even realize it. You can consider yourself fully aware and controlling the situation, but in reality it is not. Much of human behavior is still the result of the so-called The "old brain" that has come to us from distant ancestors, when the instincts of survival were in the first place. This old brain responds and works much faster than conscious thinking. Otherwise it is a reaction and is called visceral reactions.

But not only the response rate matters. Also, visceral reactions significantly affect our knowledge of the environment and are therefore consistently consistent across cultures, regardless of gender or demography. As a result, visceral reactions lead to very predictable results. You can use elements in design that include certain old-fashioned triggers for survival, threats, or reproductive functions. For example, all the known effects of color are: blue color of fresh water, bright colors, reminiscent of fruits and pure open design, giving a feeling of a safe environment.

2. Analysis of costs and benefits

It is also directly related to visceral reactions. If greatly simplified, then human behavior is caused by two typical patterns: the search for opportunities and the avoidance of threats. For example, our carcass is constantly in need of energy replenishment, and it is much easier and faster to fill it with high-calorie food. Therefore, when choosing a salad or french fries, the choice will be obvious. And both are better :) On the other hand (and this again came to us from distant ancestors), we strive to save energy by all means.

Despite the centuries of evolution, we all also show the typical reactions of ancient man. Subconsciously, we always evaluate the potential energy costs of a certain type of activity and the value of the reward that we get for it. In terms of the web, this means that if the solution of the problem requires a sufficiently large amount of energy (read time and attention), the user is unlikely to complete it if the reward does not matter to him.

A typical problem today is the so-called. form fatigue. The energy costs of filling in long forms often outweigh the profit that the user will receive. If this is something valuable (guaranteed receipt of things or money), then the person will try, and if it is only needed to access information about a product or service, then hardly anyone will fool around. People will simply look for information in another place where it is easier and more accessible.

Remember also that energy expenditure is not always associated with physical activity. Mental activity also leads to greater expenditure of energy (sometimes even much more than physical labor). A peculiar example is the famous multi-letter meme.

3. Hick's law

Hick's law says that the fewer options available for selection, the less time the user spends on this choice. It seems to be all obvious. However, the trick is that many people claim that they would like to have more choices, but their behavior shows the opposite. The more options, the harder it is to make a choice.

Hick's law relates directly to the principles of economic efficiency. The more options a user has to choose, be it navigation or merchandise, the more energy is required to make a decision. In the end, the energy is simply not enough, and the person comes to the conclusion that it is better not to get involved at all, but to look for something simpler.

This applies to everything: the content of the site page, navigation elements, images, etc. Everything on the page gives the user another option to read or do something. Removing all nonessential options allows the user to make a decision faster and easier.

4. Gestalt psychology

In the twenties of the last century, German psychologists developed principles for describing ways of uniting or kinship of objects on the basis of their proximity or similarity of forms. It is believed that if objects are located closely, regardless of their form and content, they nevertheless are related. But if there are sufficiently large gaps between objects, then they seem to be similar and even identical, they are still not related to each other.

The sens here is this: the grouping of elements is, in general, a matter of prosaic and obvious. Another thing is when objects appear on the pages of the site in key places that either are not at all in the topic, or force the user to think a lot what it means. This applies both to excessive embellishments and objects not related to the main content of the page (someone else's advertising as well).

5. Pattern matching

Despite the rather low detailing of the picture, anyone will definitely say that a dancer is depicted here. Comparison with previously memorized patterns (in other words, image recognition) is the main way of processing incoming visual information in humans. This allows us to quickly find a familiar physiognomy among a crowd of people or literally swallow words while reading a book.

Pattern matching affects sensations. When patterns are easily recognizable, they are considered normal. But if objects are not immediately recognized unconsciously, then this introduces an element of anxiety and confusion. When applied to web design, you can talk about well-established principles for the placement of basic elements, whether it is a logo, navigation, or the contents of typical pages (about the site, contacts, etc.)

6. Face recognition

One of the most active forms of pattern matching is face recognition. If we again turn to the ancient brain, it becomes clear why we can easily recognize the false smiles on our faces. There are a bunch of facial muscles that give the person a true mood. Recognizing these true sentiments for an ancient person was a vital act in order to reveal aggression. Therefore, anger is very difficult to hide behind a sweet smile :)

People instinctively refer to a human face for two reasons: to get to know a person and to identify a friend or an enemy. The eyes always betray the true intentions of the other.

In relation to web design, the use of individuals can attract additional attention and set the appropriate mood. Visitors tend to identify themselves with the people depicted and the environment. Someone happy and smiling will convey a sense of greeting and openness and vice versa, a sad picture, hungry children will cause an attack of sadness and even despair. The more authentic the photos, the stronger the impact.

7. Social Impact

Social influence is difficult to overestimate. It also came to us from ancient times, when joint activities meant nothing more than the best survival and prosperity of a group of people, rather than each individual individually. As a result, the basic systems of interaction were prescribed deeply in each of us at a subconscious level.

Response action. We are forced to return more than received.
Authority. We trust experts and those who have high status or power.
Commitment / Consistency. We act in accordance with our commitments and values.
Deficiency. The less resources available, the more we want it.
Sympathy. The more we like a person, the more often we say “Yes!” To him.
Social proof. We hope others direct our behavior.

Smart developers can use these principles to influence users and encourage them to perform the desired actions. For example, offering something free in exchange for their contact information. Signs of authority or authority can increase the level of trust. An indication of a commodity limit may push for a purchasing decision faster. Etc.


8. Selective Ignoring & Blindness to Change

Often people do not even think about how blind they really are to their surroundings. The brain blocks a huge amount of information, which, he believes, is not so important for human survival. As a result, we have the so-called selective ignoring. And it is right. Otherwise we would simply fall into a stupor from the abundance of information.

The most obvious example of selective ignoring is banner advertising. Website visitors are so used to it that they simply do not pay attention. Moreover, all that the visitor is currently not interested in or does not solve his problem is subject to selective ignoring. Sometimes visitors lack the usual key elements. For example, an easily recognizable search form. If this is something intricate (from the designer’s point of view, it’s awesome to twist), then the user simply does not perceive it.

An even more extreme thing is blindness to change. Its essence is that despite the obvious changes, a person simply does not see them. If you make any critical design changes on your site, then make them obvious. Perhaps even with a forced reference to them.

9. Progressive disclosure

Returning to the topic “multi-book”, it is also worth mentioning such a psychological fact as the digestibility of information. In one sitting, a person can perceive a very small percentage of information, and remember even less. At best, 6 - 7% of the total volume. Therefore, the method of progressive disclosure looks ideal in submitting information.

Progressive disclosure is the provision of information in the form of presentations, in small portions with the possibility of more detailed disclosure if necessary. This does not allow suppressing the visitor immediately with the immense footworms of the text, but gives him the opportunity to find the most necessary, and quickly and easily.

10. Dual coding theory

Dual coding theory emerged during the study of the relationship between memory and learning through verbal and non-verbal channels. The theory considers two cognitive systems: the use of verbal stimuli and visual. What is easier to handle? Just text or pictures or text with added graphics?

As it turned out, double coding is best perceived: text + pictures. When this is achieved the highest level of memorization. Even with the use of such a popular thing now as infographics, the picture is much better perceived if it is equipped with appropriate text explanations.


Summarizing, we can say that there is no better approach to design improvement than studying and a deeper understanding of the people for whom, in fact, all this is done. Understanding the key psychological principles is quite enough to motivate the designer to take all this into account and keep his nose in the wind.

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