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Understanding user behaviour: Unravelling the psychology behind UI/UX design

Fintech for Humans: UI/UX Design

Applying basic laws of human behaviour to our everyday commercial and recreational activities is nothing new. For example, the psychology of supermarket layouts has long been a practice of retail stores: Entice shoppers with brightly coloured fruits and vegetables; put popular products in the centre of the aisle and the shelf, forcing consumers to look up and down, right and left, maybe selecting something new in the process. Rearrange the entire store from time to time to force shoppers to re-navigate and discover new product lines.

All these tricks of the trade can be applied anywhere to great effect. The design of apps and websites is no exception. In the world of superior user experience (UX) and user interface (UI), an engaging design and technically seamless digital experience are critical in attracting visitors and ultimately in converting them into repeat customers. Incorporating the laws that drive and govern our behaviour into your site or app can increase the effectiveness of your messaging and call to action.

So, if you want your customers’ user experience to stand out from the crowd, here are a few things you can do, utilising the principles of psychology. And if you’re reading this in an app or web browser, it’s good to know what visual prompts are employed by designers to captivate users, keep them engaged, and ultimately drive desired behaviours.

Consumer using app on smartphone

The effect of colour choices

Colour psychology is not only fun but functional and sets the tone and mood for your UX. Different colours invoke different emotions and so defining what you are seeking to achieve – to excite a customer, or to soothe them, is part of your design arsenal. However, it’s important to research the meaning of colours in different cultures and environments and make sure they correspond to your target market. For example, in some cultures, black is the colour of mourning, whilst in others, it’s white. Your site can be vibrant and sophisticated, it can instil a sense of trust and more with the right choice of digital colour palette.

Serial Position Effect

The layout of your app or site is critical. The positioning of icons, menus and navigation buttons will determine how long your user remains on the site and interacts with it based on its format. The Serial Position Effect speaks to a form of cognitive bias and user preference for the first and last items in a sequence or series. That’s why you’ll find the ‘Home’ and ‘Profile’ buttons at the extreme top and bottom or right and left of a screen. It’s also why many designers are no longer using the so-called ‘hamburger’ menu, where the user options are hidden, but are rather placing the most important items as stand-alone icons in prominent positions on the page or screen.

The Von Restoreff effect

Also known as the Isolation Effect, this device speaks to the ease with which the human brain picks out a certain item from among a number of similar ones. The object that differs the most from the rest is predictably the one that will be chosen. This translates, in UX terms, to making key information, especially your call to action (CTA), as visually stand out as possible, drawing the eye and inducing the user to click.

UI/UX design

Hick's Law

It’s all about simplicity. Making your application not only as appealing as possible but making user choices and actions as easy as ABC. Hick’s Law describes the time it takes for a person to make a decision when presented with a number of choices. It seems obvious, but the more choices, the more difficult it is, and the more time it takes. If a decision takes too long, the user will lose interest and leave the site. Offering three choices – of size, colour, price – whatever the criteria – takes just one second for your user to make that critical choice, which hopefully, for you, is a purchase.

Picture Superiority Effect

We all know the saying ‘a picture paints a thousand words’, well that’s what the Picture Superiority Effect is all about. It has been shown that the human brain more easily recalls a picture rather than text, so representing information with images is much more impactful than a page of writing. I wonder if we could have drawn a picture to say all this?

In a nutshell, having a grasp of the psychological concepts that influence user activity is critical for effective UX design. By utilising design best practice like closeness, likeness, continuity, shared region, closure, and figure-ground, you can craft interfaces that are simple and intuitive for users to understand and navigate.


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