Psychology and UX Articles & Videos

  • Reciprocation: Why Login Walls Aren’t Always “Better"

    The reciprocity principle states that people, when given something upfront, tend to feel a sense of obligation to repay what has been provided. Login walls reverse this sequence and require users to disclose personal info before allowing access to content. People often resent this, and may not be as forthcoming or cooperative as a result.

  • Working Memory and External Memory

    People have very limited ability to keep information in their working memory while performing tasks, so user interfaces should be designed accordingly: to minimize memory load. One way of doing so is to offload items to external memory by showing them on the screen.

  • Social Proof in UX

    Users take cues from other humans: if many others like something or do something, that makes people feel that this thing must be good.

  • Should Experienced Designers Go Back to College?

    If experienced designers want to learn about psychology and how it applies to user experience, should they get a psychology degree, or is it better to learn on your own?

  • The Scarcity Principle in UX: Don't Miss Out!

    When people think that something is rare or only available for a limited time, they will tend to act fast to secure that scarce item. This behavioral principle can be used in user experience design, but beware of overuse.

  • The Magical Number 7 and UX

    People can remember about 7 (plus/minus 2) items in short-term memory. This memory limitation has implications for UX design, but not the ones you often hear stated.

  • Design Ruts and Functional Fixedness

    A common problem during user experience ideation is when design teams are stuck on a traditional way of thinking about aspects of the design. Here are some tips for breaking out of such functional fixedness.

  • Video Game Engagement vs Addiction

    An engaging gameplay experience is good design. But there's a fine line between engagement and addiction, which would be bad UX, especially in the long term.

  • Choice Overload Impedes User Decision-Making

    Too many offerings (e.g., products or services) on a website make it harder for users to make a decision due to analysis paralysis. Alternatively, too many options can also cause users to hastily make a decision and later regret their choice due to buyer's remorse.

  • Survey Response Biases in User Research

    Users' answers to survey questions are often biased and not the literal truth. Examples include acquiescence bias, social desirability bias, and recency bias. Knowing about response biases will help you interpret survey data with more validity for any design decisions based on the findings.

  • The Halo Effect in UX Design

    The Halo Effect says that any one element in a user's experience with a company will rub off on their interpretation of other elements and their feelings about the company as a whole. Good design in one part of a website will make people like other parts better (and like the company better), but the opposite is also true.

  • The Negativity Bias in a User's Experience

    Negative experiences have stronger emotional impact on humans than positive experiences do. Thus, in designing the user experience, we need extra emphasis on avoiding those lows.

  • Decision Biases Affecting UX Practitioners

    It's not just users who are subject to illogical thinking: designers and UX professionals can also make sub-optimal design decisions by falling prey to the same decision biases, such as framing effects when analyzing usability data.

  • Change Blindness in User Interfaces

    Change blindness is the tendency for people to overlook things that change outside their focus of attention. In user interface design, this explains why screen changes that seem striking to the designer can be completely ignored by users.

  • How Anchoring Influences UX

    Anchoring is a psychological principle which can impact how people perceive value and make decisions — in real life and on an interface.

  • How Priming Influences UX

    Priming is a basic principle of psychology with big impact on user interface design: exposure to something makes a user more likely to think and react in related ways at later steps in the interaction.

  • Social Media and Gamification

    Gamification brings the visual design and the mechanics of games to other products. As we examine our ethical responsibilities as UX professionals, social media deserves special consideration. Gamification in social media can make people feel as though their social lives are being scored.

  • Usability Heuristic 6: Recognition vs. Recall in User Interfaces

    #6 of the top 10 UX design heuristics is to design user interfaces to facilitate #memory recognition which is easier than recall because there are more cues available to facilitate the retrieval of information from memory.

  • Why Users Feel Trapped in Their Devices: The Vortex

    Many users report anxiety and lack of control over the amount of time they spend online. We call this feeling “the Vortex.”

  • Designing for Children

    Designers should consider the physical and mental abilities of children, as well as utilize existing UX conventions. Here are 3 guidelines to consider when designing UX for children, based on our user research with users aged 3-12 years.

  • How to Handle Category Outliers in Your IA

    Users’ mental models of concept categories are far less strict than you might expect. Consider keeping small numbers of outlier pages within their larger parent category, rather than creating unnecessary subcategories.

  • Principle of Closure in Visual Design

    People tend to fill in blanks to perceive a complete object.

  • Compensatory vs Noncompensatory: 2 Decision-Making Strategies

    Ease users’ purchase decisions by designing interfaces that support both compensatory and noncompensatory decision-making strategies.

  • Spatial Memory: Why It Matters for UX Design

    With repeated practice, users develop imprecise memory of objects and content in a UI, but still need additional visual and textual signals to help them find a specific item.

  • Similarity Principle in Visual Design

    Design elements that appear similar in some way — sharing the same color, shape, or size — are perceived as related, while elements that appear dissimilar are perceived as belonging to separate groups.

  • Proximity Principle in Visual Design

    Design elements near each other are perceived as related, while elements spaced apart are perceived as belonging to separate groups.

  • The Principle of Common Region: Containers Create Groupings

    In visual design, elements within the same boundary are perceived as related.

  • Information Scent: How Users Decide Where to Go Next

    When deciding which links to click on the web, users choose those with the highest information scent — which is a mix of cues that they get from the link label, the context in which the link is shown, and their prior experiences.

  • Information Foraging: A Theory of How People Navigate on the Web

    To decide whether to visit a page, people take into account how much relevant information they are likely to find on that page relative to the effort involved in extracting that info.

  • How to Measure Learnability of a User Interface

    To measure learnability, determine your metric, gather your data, and plot the averages on a line curve. Analyze the learning curve by looking at its slope and its plateau.

  • What B2B Designers Can Learn from B2C About Building Trust

    Even though B2B and B2C ecommerce sites have different kinds of users, both types of sites can use similar strategies to simplify purchase flows and increase consumer trust.

  • The Attention Economy

    Digital products are competing for users’ limited attention. The modern economy increasingly revolves around the human attention span and how products capture that attention.

  • The Peak–End Rule: How Impressions Become Memories

    Cognitive biases change the way that we recall past events. The peak–end rule focuses our memories around the most intense moments of an experience and the way an experience ends.

  • Designing for Kids: Cognitive Considerations

    Children’s cognitive skills are still developing, so their reasoning abilities are weaker than those of adults. To help them successfully use an interface, designs should display clear, specific instructions, leveraging kids’ mental models and prior knowledge.

  • The Anchoring Principle

    People tend to focus on a single, initial piece of information, which influences how they estimate value and make subsequent decisions.

  • Individualized Recommendations: Users’ Expectations & Assumptions

    Users appreciate personalized content suggestions and are willing to give up some of their privacy for quality recommendations, while accepting some inaccurate recommendations.

  • Change Blindness in UX: Definition

    Significant changes in a web page can remain unnoticed when they lack strong cues, due to the limitations of human attention.

  • Prominence-Interpretation Theory

    Prominence-interpretation theory helps determine what shapes users’ perceptions of a site’s credibility.

  • Intelligent Assistants: Creepy, Childish, or a Tool? Users’ Attitudes Toward Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri

    Users assume that assistants have a low level of competence for complex tasks and find them to be socially awkward to interact with.

  • Distracted Driving: UX’s Responsibility to Do No Harm

    I walked away from two distracted-driving accidents in one week. Can we use known UX principles to reduce harm?