Psychological drivers are key when designing experiences

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Understanding psychological drivers is key when designing experiences.

Our perception, attention, memory, decision-making processes, and emotional responses all significantly shape how we interact with technology. Here are seven key points to consider when designing experiences

  • The Limited Capacity of Attention: We cannot fully absorb and process every piece of information presented to us. Our attention is limited and broken into two types of attention. Transient i.e. a flash of lightning, a short-term response to a stimulus that temporarily attracts or distracts attention and sustains something we are consciously aiming to focus on, like reading a newspaper. Researchers have found that we can initially assess a design in under a second.  Our brains automatically filter out irrelevant information. Recognizing this limitation, designers can strategically guide users’ attention to important elements and create more effective interfaces. Designers should be aware that we need to consider both Transient and Sustained levels of attention.
  • The memory of a goldfish: Our limited memory capacity affects how we process and retain information. Designers must consider memory constraints when designing interfaces, ensuring that information is presented in a format that is easy to comprehend and recall over time. If we look at Millers’ law, one of the most referenced studies surrounding, we can see that the average human can hold about seven objects or chunks of data, give or take two (7 ± 2), during a task that requires cognitive effort. This found the basis that data and information should be broken into chunks. The aim here is to manage the capacity of someone’s brain.
  • How we see the world: we interpret the world based on our individual experiences and understandings. Our perceptions can be accurate or flawed, impacting how we interact with technology. Designers should strive to create intuitive interfaces that align with users’ mental models, reducing cognitive load and enhancing usability.  A great reference I would suggest reading on this Is Indi Young’s book ‘Mental Models’.  
  • Decision Making and Choice: Making choices, particularly complex ones, requires significant mental effort. Offering users too many options can lead to decision fatigue and decreased satisfaction. Simplifying the decision-making process by providing clear guidance can greatly improve the user experience. We can also add breaks to allow our brain to recover effort and fatigue, the same way we would rest between exercises at the gym.
  • Cognitive Biases: Biases and heuristics are mental shortcuts we employ to simplify decision-making. Understanding these biases can help designers anticipate and address potential user misconceptions or errors, leading to more effective designs. 
  • Persuasion and Influence: Psychology reveals that people often remain undecided until they take action. Designers can leverage this by influencing users’ decision-making through the strategic presentation of information and subtle nudges while maintaining trust and transparency.
  • Trust and Credibility: Trust forms the foundation of user relationships with websites and applications. Establishing credibility and building trust through design elements such as clear communication, security measures, and ethical practices are essential for fostering long-term user loyalty. This will drive other positive benefits like referrals and recurrent usage.

Designers can gain valuable insights into user behaviour, cognitive processes, and emotional responses. Being aware of this enables us to create more intuitive, engaging, and user-centred experiences. By understanding how humans perceive, process, and interact with technology, we can design interfaces and systems that truly resonate with users, fostering long-term relationships and enhancing overall user experience.