Wikipedia defines User Experience as “A person’s emotions and attitudes about using a particular product, system or service.” On the other hand, Nielsen Norman Group defines it as “User experience encompasses all aspects of the end-users interaction with the company, its services, and its products.”

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User Experience, also known as UX can be defined in umpteen ways. However, regardless of the definition used, one aspect remains common – the human element! Hence, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that when it comes to developing a successful user experience, the human or the user who will be using the service or the system must be at the centre of the design. But, how can UX designers make sure of that? Well, to do so, UX designers ought to have an in-depth understanding of the Principles of Design Psychology! Before you get too intrigued, let us spell some of the most widely used Principles for your perusal. 

 Principle of Design Least Effort

Principle 1 Of Design Psychology – Principle of Least Effort

The main motto behind this principle is “Make Your Users Think Less”. The less the user thinks before acting, the more intuitive they find the design and the more seamless their overall experience becomes. Hence, every design should ensure that the user can get their intended task done with the least possible amount of mental or physical energy. 

Design is the relationship between the user and the product. A good design is, which allows users to have an effortless product journey. The principles of design help us as designers to understand human psychology and cognitive biases. Which aids the designers to design a better product experience.

– Priya Kavdia

Regardless of the design iterations an app or website needs to go through both UI as well as UX designers must ensure that the number of steps required to take an action remains minimal. This has become more important than ever before, since the modern-day user comes across a wide array of websites and mobile applications every single day, and the moment an app or website feels like it requires a larger effort than the user is willing to expend, it becomes redundant. The user may either switch to another website or app that offers a more seamless experience or worse, may uninstall the app from their device and leave a poor review. In either case, the business or brand that owns the app will be at a loss. Using the Principle of Least Effort is one of the simplest yet most effective ways to ensure that the user has an effortless experience, and keeps coming back to the app/website. 

the von restorff Design effect

Principle 2 Design Psychology – The Von Restorff Effect

Also known as the Heart of UX Psychology or the Isolation Effect, this principle gets its name from the German psychologist and philosopher Hedwig von Restorff. This principle states that when there is a distinct element, it will become more memorable for the user, especially in cases where multiple similar elements are being used.  This principle can be used by designers to offer a prominent call-to-action for the users. You may often see such a distinction when you come across, two similar-looking yet distinctive action buttons like ‘Submit’ and ‘Cancel’. More often than not, the submit button would be highlighted such that you, as the user, are intrinsically prompted to press it without much thought. This is a great example of the Von Restorff Effect. Not only does the visual difference in the two buttons make it more instinctive for the user to click the intended button, but it also indicates the completion of a crucial step, which lets the user know their precise position in the action trail. Shapes, sizes, font styles, colours, etc are typically used to exercise this very important design principle, which essentially helps predict the user behaviour to a large extent. 

hick's law of Design

Principle 3 Of Design Psychology – Hick’s Law

This law is said to be one of the most important laws for every UX Designer, for the simple reason that it dictates the time a user takes to make decisions is directly correlated to the number of choices that they are offered. The Hick’s Law states that the more the number of options that a user is given, the higher is the amount of time taken by them to arrive at a decision. This increase in cognitive load due to the increased number of options often results in stifling the overall user experience, by adding unwanted levels of complexity in the products. 

The law dictates that the design should be such that it offers quick shortcuts to users for some of the most used features, while also ensuring that the other steps do not consume as much time of the user so as to seem repulsive or counterintuitive. 

The overall aim of this principle of design psychology is to offer the user a pleasant experience while ensuring minimal effort and little to no feeling of being frustrated with the app and its functions. 

the serial position effect of Design

Principle 4 Of Design Psychology – The Serial Position Effect

The term ‘Serial Position Effect’ was coined by the German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus on the basis of the studies he conducted pertaining to short-term and long-term memory. 

Yet another core design principle, the serial position effect can be essentially defined as a cognitive bias, which facilitates the user’s ability to recall, recognize and organize the data which is consolidated in the form of a list.

Moreover, this effect dictates that the items presented at the top or beginning of a list are more likely to be stored in one’s memory than those present towards the end of the list. This phenomenon is known as the “Primacy Effect”.

Based on this principle, user experience can be designed to be such that it primarily depends on the user’s ability to understand and memorise a listicle. 

We hope that you are now well aware of the various principles of design psychology, and the way these principles can dictate user behaviour when carefully implemented as a part of website or application design. 

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Principles of Design Psychology

  1. Should User Experience Team Be Aware of Human Psychology?

Yes, definitely so. User Experience is all about human psychology. When it comes to designing a website or an application, more than a product being designed, it is the experience that the intended user will have. Hence, it is not only essential that the UX team has a clear understanding of human psychology, but also that they are aware of the various principles of design that can enable the best possible use of design elements to enhance the overall user experience.   

  1. How is Psychology Used in Design?

Psychology is often an integral part of the design, considering the fact that a good design ought to be conducive to the overall user experience. Since a seamless and rather pleasant user experience is key to encouraging the user to make the intended purchase decision, it is imperative that the design team carefully considers the elements of psychology, at the time of both research & analysis as well as execution.    

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