When we think about what makes a great website design, we typically may focus on the website’s unique aesthetic appeal or the thoughtful and easy-to-use navigation. While these elements are undoubtedly important, an underappreciated aspect of an effective website is the interplay between design and psychology in User Experience (UX) design. In web design, User Experience incorporates how a user interacts with and experiences a site, with a particular focus on ease of use, utility, and how the website makes users feel.
Insights from psychology can provide valuable information on how users behave and interact with websites and digital interfaces. Web designers can really benefit from using psychology as a guide, empowering them to create engaging user-centred designs aligned with how people actually perceive, process, and interact with a site. This article will explore the importance of psychology in creating compelling user experiences in web design. What is user experience design, and what advantages can businesses gain from having a website design that embraces psychology in creating user experiences? What key principles of psychology should designers embrace if they want to develop website designs and user experiences that drive better engagement? I will outline some key principles of psychology that designers should consider – Jacob’s Law, the Aesthetic-Usability effect, and Hick’s Law – and will discuss how applying these principles will lead to more intuitive and user-centred designs that will attract more positive responses from website users.
User Experience Design: Understanding the Power of User Experience
User Experience (UX) design focuses on the users’ perceptions, emotions, and responses, and is the process of increasing a users’ level of satisfaction with a product or service. The goal is to improve functionality, ease of use, accessibility, and convenience. The Nielson Norman Group defines user experience (UX) as encompassing all aspects of the end users’ interaction with a product or service. Designing a website that doesn’t put the user first, that doesn’t prioritise User Experience, can be a damaging for a business or organisation. Research shows 88% of users are less likely to return to a website after a poor user experience, and that users who have had a negative brand experience on mobile are 62% less likely to engage with and purchase from that brand again.
Poor user experiences lead to businesses losing potential and existing customers. A study published by Amazon Web Services, The Trillion Dollar UX Problem, has argued that business’ failure to invest in User Experience design in recent years has contributed to over a trillion dollars in lost revenue. A consumer survey conducted by PwC found that 32% of customers would stop engaging with a brand that they love after only one negative experience.
In web design, User Experience Design focuses on creating engaging and enjoyable experiences for users when they interact with a website, including ensuring the website is responsive, easy to navigate, and that it anticipates and meets the needs of the user. Revamping your website’s UX design can be a fantastic investment, helping to boost conversion rates and help win and retain customers.
An improved user interface design can increase a website’s conversion rate by up to 200%. Statistics shows that 90% of smartphone users would engage with and purchase from a brand again after a helpful brand experience on mobile. Principles of design and psychology inform successful website and user experience design. Simplicity, elegance, ease of use, and accessibility contribute to making a website a pleasure to use. How can web designers develop their website design to optimise for user experience? Below, I will outline three key principles of psychology that can be extremely helpful to web designers and can be incorporated into a web design to positively influence user experience.
User Experience Design: 3 Key Principles from Psychology to Inspire Stronger and More Effective Website User Experience Design
Jon Yoblonski’s ‘Laws of UX: Using Psychology to Design Better Products & Services’ describes and explains the complex interplay between psychology and design, and how understanding this interplay is important for building positive user experiences. Yoblonski explores how applying key principles in psychology can help build user experiences that are more human-centred, intuitive, and user-friendly. What principles from psychology would web designers find most useful when approaching the design of websites and user experiences? I will examine three key principles that I think would be most useful for designers.
Principle 1: Jakob's Law
Jacob’s Law observed that people tend to use previous experiences to help them understand and evaluate new experiences. Web designers can harness this psychological insight, ensuring their design, layout, and navigation design maintains a recognisable similarity with other websites. This sense of familiarity will boost usability and create more positive user experiences – helping users to process information and quickly understand how to interact with a site and navigate their way around with ease. Users’ need for familiarity doesn’t mean that website designers should craft web designs that are identical to other websites. It means that designers should be cautious about diverging too much from established models and consider any radical departures carefully. We can use Jacob’s Law to inform our design approach, to help us better understand and serve users, and create more positive user experiences.
Principle 2: The ‘Aesthetic-Usability Effect’
The Aesthetic-Usability Effect states that users tend to perceive aesthetically pleasing design as design that’s more usable. Research conducted by the Hitachi Design Centre found that users were strongly influenced by the aesthetics of a user interface. Users are more tolerant of minor usability issues when they find an interface visually appealing. Aesthetically pleasing design creates a positive emotional response in users and even gives them the impression that the design works better. As web designers, the Aesthetic-Usability Effect underlines the importance of the visual elements of a web design and how creating visually appealing designs and layouts have a profound effect on how users experience a website. Research shows a well-designed website significantly boosts a business’ credibility and trust with their audience.
Creating aesthetically pleasing design will enhance users perceptions of usability and create more positive emotional responses and user experiences. The Aesthetic-Usability Effect demonstrates the power of design to enhance website usability and generate more positive user experience.
Principle 3: 'Hick's Law'
Hick’s Law states that the time it takes to make a decision increases with the number and complexity of choices. Coined in 1952 by psychologist William Edmund Hick, who was examining the relationship between stimuli and an individuals reaction time to the stimulus, Hick’s Law observes that the more stimuli present, the longer it takes for an individual to make a decision.
According to psychologists, our working memory has a limited capacity, and can generally hold between five and nine items of information at any one time. Beyond this ‘cognitive load,’ we struggle to process and retain more information and tasks become more difficult. As web designers, Hick’s Law informs us that, if we want to create more positive user experiences, we should avoid complication and favour simplicity and minimalism in our web design approach. Complexity creates obstacles that slows the user down, preventing them from completing their task and achieving their desired goal quickly and easily. We should be mindful of Hick’s Law and the concept of cognitive load, that complex designs and interfaces require significant mental resources to understand and interact with. As web designers, we should ensure our designs avoid taxing the user with complex tasks and too much information, that we use simpler steps and minimise choices to avoid confusing or overwhelming users. Ease of use is a vital component of good user experience, and Hick’s Law supports a web design approach that embraces simplicity and minimalism.
Conclusion: User Experience Design – Putting the User First and Driving Success Online.
Effective User Experience Design plays a huge role in determining user satisfaction and is an essential element of a successful web design. Businesses and organisations should do all they can to ensure their website is designed and developed to prioritise positive user experiences. Exploring the interplay between psychology and website design, we can utilise insights from psychology to create great website designs that capture and hold attention, and user experiences that engage and delight on a deeper level. Neglecting user experience can have serious consequences for a business, decreasing engagement and conversion rates, and ultimately resulting in losing potential and existing customers.
If we can understand and harness the power of psychology, designers can create websites that are visually appealing and that also align with users’ cognitive processes and emotional responses. Jacob’s Law, Hick’s Law, and the Aesthetic-Usability Effect can act as guiding lights, helping us develop web designs that produce better user experiences that generate more positive results.
Are you an organisation looking to improve user experience on your website? At Grinning Graphics, we understand the importance of psychology in design, and how valuable insights from psychology can be used to create more compelling and effective website designs. Our web designers will work with you to create a unique and visually engaging website design aligned with your brand identity and optimised to ensure better user engagement and more positive user experiences.
Are you interesting in working with experienced web designers to create a website that will deliver exceptional user experiences and drive better engagement?