Home > User Experience > The Five Principles of UX Design Psychology: Can You Predict the Behavior of Your Users? | by Alexander Rådahl | Jun, 2021

The Five Principles of UX Design Psychology: Can You Predict the Behavior of Your Users? | by Alexander Rådahl | Jun, 2021

The Five Principles of UX Design Psychology: Can You Predict the Behavior of Your Users? | by Alexander Rådahl | Jun, 2021


The design of an application affects the experience that the user has with it. How do you know what your users are thinking? The Five Principles of UX Design Psychology can help you gain insight into your customer’s minds by predicting their behavior and needs.

In this article, we will discuss each principle and show how they apply to real-world scenarios. We’ll also explore some best practices for designing applications based on these principles so that people will enjoy using them!

As UX designers, we are often expected to read people’s minds (not literally), understand precisely what they want and need, and then design a product that will meet those needs. It’s an impossible task, but luckily, UX Design Psychology’s five principles can help guide us through the maze!

The Principle of Least Effort states that people will take the path or make an action requiring the least amount of mental and physical energy.

In other words, the less you ask your users to think about what they are doing to use your application, the better! This is an excellent principle for UX designers because it can help them understand why some design decisions have been made; if there was no consideration given for this principle, more work might need to be done.

We are all a little lazy. Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

The design process is an iterative one, meaning you will make changes and grow over time. This may not be an issue if your app was only meant to last for a short while, but in many cases, that’s not the case. When considering updates or redesigns, it’s essential to keep this principle in mind because users are likely to get annoyed with having too many changes made without their knowledge; after all, they interact with the interface on just about every platform, so UX consistency is critical!

Designing an app can seem like something you’ll never finish — even when everything looks perfect, there might still be some tiny detail left undone, which could cause problems down the line. With constant feedback from clients and multiple testing sessions, these problems can easily be avoided by following a few easy steps for clarity and design continuity.

It’s no surprise that people are always seeking fast and easy solutions with digital content. This principle is the guiding force behind UX design, which is why society now demands flawless user experience on both desktop and mobile devices more than ever before, as this accounts for a substantial share of consumption of content.

Cognitive principles are the natural way that humans interact with digital devices. To explore this connection, psychologist and cognitive scientist Susan Weinschenk has studied how psychology can be applied to UX design to work best for a human’s brain.

How to use this method in everyday social psychology

Designing websites and apps is, in a sense, an ingenious form of communication. Understanding how we think on all fronts and how we perceive patterns as they unfold is essential to this generation’s UX designers.

I had a chat with Bram Jansen, Chief Editor of vpnAlert. They have worked a lot with this first UX law in their company, and he told about three ways they use the law of least effort in their designs:

  1. Instead of informing your users about anything in the text, show them an example when you need to explain anything to them, such as when onboarding them. Grammarly’s onboarding process is the best illustration of web design psychology in action. Instead of reading interminable instructions on using Grammarly or figuring out how to navigate the system independently, the user opens a demo document and learns how to use it in a real-life example.
Here Grammarly uses a demo document to help you get started.

2. Use grouping if there is a lot of comparable information. Use sorting and filtering if the groupings are enormous. Having a Search Bar is also a fantastic idea. For example, if you have many posts on your website’s Blog page, try categorizing them by subjects. Consider introducing date-based sorting or filtering. Furthermore, the Search Bar will allow your users to swiftly and simply locate what they are looking for.

3. Also, keep in mind the text size, color, and contrast. It’s an issue if the text is too tiny to read without resizing the website. It’s also a reading issue if the text and background colors don’t contrast well enough or if they don’t interact effectively enough. Use tools like Usecontrast and Colorsafe to evaluate this factorial design psychology aspect.

Understanding how humans perceive and react to design is crucial for any sound designer. When developing a site or app, qualitative analytics are vital in giving you insights into what users do when interacting with your product. By integrating these findings into how we create our designs, designers can build something that truly resonates with people’s needs.

The principle was named after the German psychologist and philosopher Hedwig von Restorff. Von Restorff’s Principle, also known as The Isolation Effect, Predicts that the different ones will be more memorable when there are many similar objects because they stand out from all of the other identical things.

Designers often use this to improve usability for their interface by giving users a prominent call-to-action to take action with. It’s also used to study memory processes by manipulating the degree of similarity between two objects and observers’ performance for discriminating them. The principle is so prevalent in design it has been made into its wordmark called “Von Restoff effect”.

The Von Restoff effect visualized. Photo by me.

Designing interfaces according to this theory can make interfaces easier for people who have difficulty distinguishing objects. For example, a user with dyslexia might find it difficult to differentiate between the text for “submit” and “cancel”. Designing these two buttons to have some visual differences will make interfaces easier for users who need more time-consuming processing of information.

Designing interfaces is a delicate balance of getting inside your users’ heads and making their experience as positive as possible. Sometimes this means being creative with fonts, colors, or shapes to complete specific actions. If you’re giving them a long form to fill out, but it’s too difficult for them to see the current step they should be on, provide bullets that show progress, so they know how much further there is left before completion!

Zalando.com uses this concept of broken down checkout very well!

We can’t just design an interface without considering what our users will think about it — after all, we are designing something right in front of their eyes every day when we use technology at work and at home.

The better our input tone reflects these nuances, the more successful we’ll be at improving overall usability through emphasizing specific information or highlighting critical steps.

Differentiating your plans by making them different shapes, sizes and colors will catch a user’s attention. If you want to show all of the offered plans in an unbiased way, make sure they’re similar in size/shape/color so that no plan is more favored than others.

Here is an example from the framework Bootstrap where they used the color of the CTA to guide you towards the plans that will earn money, compared to the free plan.

We have to consider how our brains work to design an interface that will be useful and effective. This is called cognitive psychology, which studies the human mind and brain functions to make better interfaces for humans. The Von Restorff effect is one of those concepts from cognitive psychology that can help us create a more usable UX by using visual cues or highlighting important information on the screen.

Picture from Apple.com

However, the Von Restorff effect can work against you if something goes wrong. Apple Music wasn’t great when it first came out. People across the internet attacked it for being messy, hard to use, and bad at its job — which is not surprising in light of how well designed every other product has been from this company up until now! While some people report that it’s gotten better over time since launch with many new features added each year, including Beats 1 radio stations as well as an all-new design makeover on iOS devices, Apple music will always have a poor reputation burned into them because they didn’t get off to such a good start due entirely to their incompetence.

How to use it in everyday design psychology

Von Restorff’s effect can be used in various ways to make our lives easier; check out these four!

  1. Using bold and italics to highlight key text or points we want people to know more about makes it easier for the user to scan what you want them to see.
  2. Enriching images with subtle details not found in the image itself — leveraging our attention towards the parts of your design that hold more meaning will help users understand and appreciate your product’s features much quicker.
  3. Playing on nostalgia by creating reminders of a positive event from the past — usually done using color cues, illustration style, typography, etc., that matches up with something related to their history.
  4. Including something unexpected in your design (a twist) — will increase engagement with that specific part of the design because it creates curiosity within users which then makes them want to understand why they see this new item/ detail etc.

These Von Restorff effect techniques are just some ways designers use psychology in UX Design. What do you think? Do these have value for us and our work? Let me know what you think about this article in the comments or directly email me!

Hick’s Law clarifies that how long a person takes to make decisions depends on the number of choices they are offered.

The more options you present, the longer someone will take to decide because their cognitive load has increased significantly, and providing too many options at once can stifle user experience as there becomes an unnecessary level of complexity in your product. [1]



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