All Posts in psychology

September 13, 2017 - Comments Off on Gamification


Word: Gamification

Definition: The use of game elements and design features in a non-gaming context in order to solve problems, like in a business, for example.

Thought: Three strong components of gamification that have spread rapidly through the digital design industry are validation, completion, and prizes.alidation is like retweets, up-votes, and likes.

Validation drives engagement and strengthens the sense of community.

Completion, just like working your way through a game level, can be applied to anything from your Linkedin profile percentage to hitting a step-count on a fitness tracker.

Prizes are used as incentives to focus the user and help her see a task through to completion. A great example is earning badges and avatars on the language learning application, Duolingo.

Question: While these are just three examples, it is easy to see how gamification has infiltrated our digital lives. Now that gamification is all around us, will this diminish its powerful effect? Have we already over-used this technique to a point-of-no-return?

September 12, 2017 - Comments Off on Door-in-the-face


Word: Door-in-the-face

Definition: The notion that refusing a large request (figuratively getting the door slammed in your face) increases the likelihood of agreeing to a second, smaller request, shortly thereafter.

Reference:  A compliance method from social psychology, this technique works because of the principle of reciprocity (Cialdini et al, 1975). Saying "no" to a large request creates a feeling of guilt towards the asker, and in turn, the person being asked now feels as if she owes something. This manipulation strategy is often used in marketing.

The concept plays into design strategy when dealing with subscription fees or add-on purchases, for example. Think about a time when you bought an online subscription. There are often multiple packages to choose from. Once you've looked over the choices and decided the expensive option is outrageous, you are more inclined to see the less expensive option as more reasonable in comparison. Hence, your guilty conscience may lead you to buy yet another unwanted and unneeded steaming music service!

Thoughts/Questions: As a user experience designer, where does your job end and the marketing department's job begin? Should a line be drawn between marketing tactics and what's best for the user?

September 7, 2017 - Comments Off on Hick’s Law

Hick’s Law

Word:  Hick's Law

Definition: The time it takes for a person to make a decision increases with the number of choices available.

Reference: The law is named for British psychologist William Edmund Hick. Countless studies in fields from psychology to marketing have investigated the effect of options on decision making and satisfaction (I suggest the jam study if you're looking for a good example). Widespread consensus shows that not only do fewer choices decrease the time of decision making (a la Mr. Hick) but it also generates greater user satisfaction. The fewer the choices, the more satisfied the user is with her final decision. Seems counter intuitive, but science doesn't lie, my friend.

Thoughts: While it is simple to see how Hick's Law is used in web design to justify menu and navigation decisions, you would be limiting yourself greatly if that is the only design feature influenced by this principle. If you dig more deeply, you will see that decisions are the crux of experiences and impact every move and click a user takes.

September 3, 2017 - Comments Off on F-Pattern


Word:  F-Pattern

Definition: The natural eye movement by Western societies when scanning content rich web pages. Most people will automatically scan the top of a page, then skim down the left-hand side and make a few occasional forays into the center.

Reference: The pattern appears during eye tracking sessions that use heat maps to track a user's gaze. This word is best described with a picture so here's one!

It is important to keep the F-Pattern in mind while laying out a page because this will ensure that the most important UI elements will easily and quickly be seen by your users.

September 3, 2017 - Comments Off on Anchor


Word:  Anchor

Definition: A type of cognitive bias -- the tendency to make decisions based heavily on the first piece of information provided.

Thought: Examples always make things easier to understand so here's one... When you buy a new phone for $500, your anchor point becomes $500. Therefore, when it comes time to buy a case for your new shiny toy, a $35 case doesn't feel like much in comparison to the anchor point. Now flip that around! If you bought the $35 case first (creating an anchor point), the $500 phone would feel like a lot more money.

What does this have to do with design? By understanding anchoring, designers are able to reset user expectations and assist in the arrangement or presentation of comparable items and information. Think about how e-commerce items are arranged on the page 

September 1, 2017 - Comments Off on Sticky UX

Sticky UX

Word: Sticky UX

Definition: Experiences that engage users and keep them interested, resulting in increased user return rate and user rememberability.

Thought: The internet is a different animal from a brick and mortar store or a physical experience because the physicality is, in and of itself, predisposed to stickiness. Still confused? Stick with me! (See what I did there!) When you're at the pharmacy, you are likely to walk out with a purchase, full stop. However, the stakes are much lower in the digital world. If Amazon does not have what you're looking for, you're most likely not going to buy a comparable but not favorable item just because you're already on the site. A designer's job is to make the experience more "sticky" which in turn, makes the user, stay! Or at the very least, remember to come back.

August 27, 2017 - Comments Off on Readability and Legibility

Readability and Legibility

Word: Readability and Legibility

Definition: Readability is the measure of complexity in the words and sentence structure of a piece of content. Legibility is the ability for people to see, distinguish, and recognize the characters and words within the text.

Thoughts: Not to be confused with "legibility", readability is about a reading level and the ability to parse and understand sentences at varying levels of complexity.

Legibility is not about the understanding of a sentence and instead, is concerned with whether someone is physically able to see and distinguish the text.

Reference: Both readability and legibility play into user experience. It is known throughout the UX community that users tend not to read most text on a page. Therefore, the text that is presented should be short, to the point, and easily understood at a quick glance. Fewer and less complicated words are important when designing a user experience for all audiences, particularly when the text is not the end goal for the user.

Legibility is equally important because you cannot have readability without legibility. This means that text on a page should be sized appropriately (or have larger options), contain strong contrast with page color and other page elements, and should be written in a clean, less decorative typeface.

Here's an example of good readability and legibility from the Slack homepage. The text is written in short concise sentences making it easy to understand and great for quick skimming. Additionally, the legibility is great because of the contrast between the font and background color. It is easy to distinguish the hierarchy of important based on size and weight.

Now an example of the bad from SquareSpace's "Feature Index" page. The legibility is very difficult here. Notice the extremely low contrast between the font color and background -- not to mention the small font size. This is an example where designers chose visual aesthetics over usability and legibility. The readability is not great either because the amount of text and length of the sentences make it difficult to skim and understand quickly with ease.


August 24, 2017 - Comments Off on Framing Effect

Framing Effect

Word: Framing effect

Definition: A form of cognitive bias, in which a person's reaction to a specific choice is different depending on the way in which the situation is presented.

Reference: Leaders in the study of behavioral economics, Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman, wrote a paper entitled "The Framing of Decisions and the Psychology of Choice" in 1981 to understand the psychological impact of framing effects.

The study asked the first group of participants if they would drive 20 minutes out of their way to buy a $15 calculator for $5 off. About 70% of participants said they would. For comparison, they asked a second group of participants if they would drive 20 minutes out of their way to save $5 on a $125 jacket. This time, only 29% said they would.

So what's the rationale behind this seeming irrationality? In the case of the calculator, the participant would be saving 33% off the original price, which feels like a great deal. On the flip side, she is only saving 4% when $5 is taken off the $125 coat and that just doesn't seem worth it.

It's all about the framing!

Thoughts: When creating a design that involves decision making, these are the types of psychological principles designers need to consider.

Remember to keep in mind that framing effects are closely tied to anchoring, both of which are extremely useful in e-commerce, particularly when it comes to price-setting.