InsightsJune 26, 2023

Understanding how human behaviour shapes digital interactions

As our communication increasingly relies on technology, it is crucial to comprehend the psychology that drives these interactions. User experience (UX) design is a necessary field that utilises our knowledge of human behaviour to create digital experiences that are engaging, impactful, and persuasive.

One of Dieter Rams’ ten principles of good design stresses the importance of making useful products that meet functional, psychological, and aesthetic standards. Good design prioritises a product’s usefulness while eliminating any hindrances to that usefulness. What is the connection between psychology and UX?

As a UX designer, you will often find yourself at the intersection of technology and psychology. You can create digital products that meet users’ needs and desires by understanding their cognitive biases, behaviours, and emotions. It’s not just about creating visually appealing apps or sites but designing intuitive interactions that elicit positive emotional responses.

Every choice, from colour schemes and typography to button placement and menu structure, can affect how users perceive and interact with your digital products. Even subtle aspects such as loading times and animation speeds can evoke various emotional responses, ultimately affecting overall user satisfaction.

Understanding how human behaviour influences our digital interactions is essential as we rely more on technology for communication. User experience (UX) design leverages our understanding of human behaviour to create digital experiences that are engaging, impactful, and persuasive. Good design prioritises a product’s usefulness while eliminating any factors hindering it. As a UX designer, you must grasp users' cognitive biases, behaviours, and emotions to create visually appealing and intuitive digital products that cater to their needs and desires. Ultimately, your goal is to design interactions that elicit positive emotional responses.

Cognitive biases and their impact on user behaviour

Our cognitive biases can heavily influence our actions on digital platforms, even without conscious awareness. For instance, the anchoring bias can lead us to rely too much on the first piece of information we encounter on a website, affecting how we perceive the following information. One way to address this is by prioritising important information at the beginning of a page. On the other hand, the bandwagon effect can make us follow the beliefs and actions of others, which is why designers can use social proof elements like reviews and testimonials to leverage this tendency.

Emotions and user experience

The process of designing user experience involves both logic and emotions. Research shows that people tend to remember information better and form more positive opinions when they experience positive emotions. Designers can use this fact to create enjoyable experiences that leave a lasting positive impact on users.

Design elements such as imagery, colour schemes, and micro-interactions can all evoke emotional responses. Warm colours, for example, can create excitement or happiness, while cool colours can evoke feelings of professionalism or calmness. Micro-interactions, such as playful loading icons or subtly animated buttons, can enhance engagement and delight the user experience.

An app interface showing the Popermo app.
We used similiar principles, when we designed the app for Popermo and their insurance customers.

Understanding human behaviour for better UX design

In the world of UX design, knowledge of human behaviour is crucial in creating interfaces that are easy to use and intuitive. Fitts’s Law and the Serial Position Effect are two important principles designers can use to enhance their work.

Fitts’s Law is a model that predicts how humans move and interact with computers. It states that the time required to reach a target area is based on the distance to the target and its size. In short, the closer and larger the target, the easier it is to reach.

This Law significantly impacts the design and placement of interactive elements, such as buttons, links, and menu items. Designers can minimise user effort by making frequently used buttons larger and placing them centrally. On the other hand, placing interactive elements too closely can lead to frustration and user errors. By understanding and applying Fitts’s Law, designers can optimise interfaces for speed and efficiency, improving user satisfaction.

Did you know how we remember information is influenced by the order in which it’s presented to us? This is known as the Serial Position Effect, which states that people are likelier to remember the first and last items in a list or series. In contrast, the middle ones tend to be forgotten.

UI components from ARIS Robotics web app.
When used correctly, the Serial Position Effect can be powerful when showing a dense amount of data to users.

So, how can UX designers use this to their advantage? Place the most important information or features at the beginning or end of lists or menus. This makes it easier for users to notice and remember them. For example, navigation menus often start with "Home" or end with "Contact" because these are commonly used features that users are more likely to remember.

But that’s not all. When combined with Fitts’s Law, which determines the best size and placement of interactive elements, the Serial Position Effect can create even more intuitive and user-friendly interfaces. By understanding these cognitive biases and behavioural patterns, designers can create digital products that align with natural human behaviour, making them more usable, engaging, and effective.

Psychological principles in UX design can enhance user experience and encourage desired behaviours. However, it is crucial to consider ethical implications and ensure that persuasive design strategies are used to improve the user’s experience rather than manipulate them for commercial gain. Above all, privacy and consent should be prioritised, and users should always have the option to opt out of features that collect personal data.

Let’s wrap it up

Psychology is an integral aspect of the UX design process, not just as a tool but as an essential component. Designers who understand cognitive biases, emotions, and behavioural patterns can create digital products that deeply connect with users. It is important to maintain ethical standards to ensure that our understanding of psychology benefits users.

The connection between psychology and UX design transforms digital interactions, making them more intuitive, captivating, and human. The future of UX design is about creating exceptional experiences, not just building better websites or apps. For more information on best UX practices for making your next digital product, visit Laws of UX.

This article is part of our monthly newsletter that serves as your compass in the evolving landscape of digital design and user experience.