Psychology Snacks in Design


Anina Ku

Head of Sales

Anina Ku is DEV's swiss army knife. A Webflow expert, a design visionary, and also our Head of Sales!

Being a UX/UI designer at DEV has let me combine my interest in psychology with being creative and artistic, in that every feature we design is meant to be as beautiful and intuitive as possible. Designing with intention and thinking through our decisions allows us to give our users control of their experiences with our products. In this blog post, we’ll explore 3 user experiences and the psychology behind why they work so well (or not).

I. Why Are There So Many Options? I’ll Just Choose One

We’ve all been there - overwhelmed by a huge list of options, we stop reading carefully after a while and choose one, not because that choice stands out to us, but because we just want to move on. It’s the same situation when onboarding processes (the signups or the filling out preferences) become so long and tedious we find ourselves typing rapidly and even mindlessly just to press reach the end.

On paper, it seems like having lots of choices would be great for the user, providing them with tons of flexibility and making the app as tailored as possible. However, because of Hick’s Law, the opposite can happen. Hick’s Law states that as the number of choices go up, the time it takes for a user to make a decision goes up logarithmically.

If it’s been a while since math class, not to fear - a picture is here.

What this means is that faced with a large number of choices, users spend less and less time on each one - and this decrease in time also reflects a decrease in interest.

We’re faced with an interesting problem as designers then: how do we give the users enough choices so they feel empowered, but not so much that they lose interest? We tackle this by breaking these processes into small, digestible chunks that the user can speed through, since they are tackling one decision at a time.

If we need a user to make 10 choices, we will have better results by presenting one question per screen in a conversational format, rather than presenting a hauntingly long form that could lead the user to exit the app for good.

II. It’s Not Loading? Let Me Keep Pulling Down to Refresh

The best way to keep users happy is to give them control over uncontrollable factors - or at least the illusion of control. When we’re refreshing our inbox, the servers are usually updated almost instantly. New emails could show up instantaneously by themselves, but that would lead to a less satisfying end experience. Instead, email apps don’t allow a new message to show unless the user pulls to refresh. This gives the user the feeling that they are speeding up the process, willing an important email to land in their inbox.

III. My Internet Doesn’t Work, But Now I Can Play the Dinosaur Jump Game

You let out a hefty sigh after failing to connect to Harvard Secure. Your Google Chrome tab shows an Error Loading screen, but you do see the little dinosaur. He’s ready to run!

As users, we hate waiting. So when waiting is inevitable, it’s wise of designers to think of ways to engage the user in an exciting process not related to the primary activity of waiting. To make a great browser, Chrome can deliver an excellent user experience, but internet connectivity is out of its control. Thus, even when designers do not have control over something, they can predict what might happen and create an engaging tool to distract from the process of reconnection.

A game like this also allows users to gain control of the situation, alleviating the stress of being powerless. And though the game does not speed up the process of reconnection, the game keeps users happy, which keeps them on the browser for longer.

As an ending note, as designers we understand the psychology and tendences of our users are not uniform, because different generations have learned different habits via their own experiences with technology. For example, millennials are more accustomed to manually saving their work, and need easily accessible and satisfying save processes, whereas younger generations are accustomed to autosaving, and are most pleased with a seamless self-saving mechanism.

So, though there are numerous human universal tendencies, we seek to identify our target audience as specifically as possible to tailor their experience to the best of our abilities.


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