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Psychology and UX Design

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Behaviour, Interface, and everything in Between

Open a book. See how your eyes always find the top left corner and start reading. Before you tell yourself to stop, you have already read the first sentence, at least half of it.

Even better, pick up a menu card. You will by default look at the different sections – Beverages, Starters, Main Course, Dessert.

It’s fair to assume that when we have read or interacted with something in the past, we tend to form a habit of the way we consume information, in a manner that is relevant to its format.

Designing Website User Experience (UX) is no different. When we look at the core of the subject, we realize that the philosophy of creating a good user experience relies solely on understanding how people interact with various formats of content.

Doing so for a website not only requires skill and talent but a deeper understanding of the psychological reasons that influence user’s behaviour.

Now, all this might sound very academic and technical, but in truth, it isn’t.

User Experience in simple terms is the art of breaking down and arranging information in the most accessible and simple manner. This breakdown helps create what is known as a user journey, where the information you convey has to lead to an end product (lead generation, subscribing, purchasing, etc.).


There are of course, some psychological phenomena that can help us become better UX Designers.

These are:

Chameleon Effect (If you jump, I jump)

You ever wonder why watching sad rom-com movies makes you cry? You didn’t experience the heartbreak, you didn’t lose the one you love, he or she is sitting right next to you, probably crying too.

Chameleon Effect indicates that when we see or read something of high emotional intensity, it is most likely to bring out those emotions from us too. We mirror emotions and feelings instantly. It’s what makes us human.

Aesthetic Usability Effect (Eye candy)

You’re likely to remember something that looked better than the rest. Whether that’s good looking people, cars, or just mnemonics. The Aesthetic Usability Effect states that viewers are more likely to remember and create an affinity for something that appeals to their eyes. If it’s pretty, it must be better.

When working on a design, opting for pleasing and soothing colours, shapes, and the right typography all make a significant impact on one’s User Experience.

Pavlovian Conditioning (The button for everything)

Do you ever come across pop up ads and banners that you wish to get rid of the moment you see them? You always go for a red button with a white cross. That’s the first instinct, and that is the Pavlovian Effect.

When designing the user journey of your website, providing options, colour selection, arranging the option buttons in their conventional order, and sticking to a pre-existing format helps. Users should be able to breeze through a website with a template of such kind.

Placebo Effect (It’s working when it actually isn’t)

Do you ever notice how refreshing your social media feed by swiping down from the top shows you all the latest posts? You think you made that happen. But the algorithm updates it, regardless of you refreshing it. Placebo Effect puts the user in an illusion that they are in control, and they feel happy about it.

Of course, the people working on the back-end programming think otherwise, but letting the user feel in control of some aspects adds more to their experience. They’ll get hooked, and they’ll keep coming back for it.

Von Restorff Effect (Different always stands out)

You always remember the weird ones. Whether that’s people or their outfits or the way they do their hair. The Von Restorff Effect states that from a group of items, the one that stands out the most is most likely to be remembered. Which is a great design idea, but only if one can balance it with its relevant format?

By that, we mean that people prefer using something that appears hassle-free, convenient, and similar to what they are accustomed to. Changing those foundations with something new is bound to ward them off. Which is why most apps feel the same, but don’t always look the same. See what we mean?

Serial Positioning Effect (No one remembers the middle child)

You and I were together in the end, and I forgot the rest.

Of course you did. It’s the Serial Positioning Effect in play.

Now, back to the menu card. You probably don’t remember all the 73 items on it. But you might remember the first one, the last one, and maybe something you really liked. The Serial Positioning Effect states that users pay more attention to the first and the last item of a list. This probably also happens to you when you’re shopping online.

It is important to note that when arranging items on your webpage, whether that is a list of products, services, or even what information you wish to convey, put your strongest items either at the start or the end, preferably in both places.

These psychological phenomena are the foundation of how people behave, learn, and navigate through information. If you wish to increase visitors or keep them coming back for more, simplify everything down to what makes people click, and build your User Experience around it.

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