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Psychology in the field of design

1 June 2014
Ella Antes
designer brainstorming

Human behavior and interactions in different situations have always interested society. Many scientists have analyzed different human behaviors in answer various needs of the worlds of sales, distribution, communication, etc. etc.




Nowadays, one of the major tools, available to pretty much everyone, is the Web site: company websites, personal profiles on LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. Large organizations, small businesses and individuals use the internet for business and personal/social purposes. Furthermore, most companies invest many resources in the development of unique, well designed, innovative websites since if you're in the web you're practically irrelevant.


Nowadays, we're all on the Web. But does that necessarily mean we're relevant?

Does the organization indeed reach its target audience through the website? Does the way people behave when using the site match its definitions? What makes a website into a communicative site that communicates with its target audience? Is it the fact that the site's message was conveyed successfully? Or perhaps a site succeeds when a community of committed users is developed? Ultimately, the base of any site is human behavior, psychological reactions to different situations, to information, color, design and content

So what do psychologists say? And what do we do about it?


  • Build trust- in order for the users to use the site as planned they must trust you, enjoy themselves and be curious enough to return. According to Robert Plutchik, human emotions are described as such:

So, if we would wish to provide the users a sense of:


We must choose a title that integrates humor in order to provide enjoyment, then use a short elaboration text in order to build trust, then add a "to be continued…" at the bottom will provide curiosity. For example:

Optimizing Emotional Engagement In Web Design Through Metrics

  • Recurring patterns: people find it easier to deal with something known and familiar. This is why we have repeatedly recommended using patterns and templates when making information more accessible to users. Furthermore, the two main things users want to be able to locate easily when visiting a site are the sites purpose (why am I here?) and the site's navigation system.

  • Consistent branding: When dealing with branding, you don't have to reinvent the wheel. You should actually refrain from doing so. Instill the logo and brand colors uniformly in all communication tools-newsletters, distribution mails, etc.

  • Psychological "triggers": psychological triggers are bits of information that are combined in the site's use and affect the user's behavior. For example, the human tendency to "go with the flock" is translated to a psychological trigger such as:

  • Using pictures in order to enhance a concept: choosing pictures that match the site's theme can enhance its message and provide the right atmosphere. That said, pictures that do not contribute to the subject can confuse the users

This smiley, for example, has nothing to do with this paragraph. Furthermore, it is preferable to reconsider using abstract pictures which can be interpreted differently by different people.

  • Color psychology: what color is your mood? Using different colors affects people in various ways. It is therefore worthwhile to give thought to the site's colors. For more, read "the psychology behind using color".

  • People's reading pattern: people don't really read; they merely scan the page. The scan is performed in a Z pattern. This is why for instance the company's logo should be placed in the site's top left corner. Of course, the texts should be meticulously chosen and should be short and concise.

  • Focusing each page: each site page should have a focus and purpose. When designing a page, a focus point must be clearly placed in order to inform the users what to find on the page. This can be achieved through a noticeable upper banner or an emphasis in the navigation, in addition to the page's content.

  • A place to breathe- pages loaded with details and information may cause a sense of shock/overload which may very well cause the users to leave the page abruptly. By using a balanced combination between the designed spaces and the blank spaces, users will be directed to the relevant web items and perform accordingly.

To conclude, psychology has indeed what to offer in the field of web design as it can provide us with components to consider when characterizing an organizational portal, Knowledgebase, newsletters, etc.

If you're interested in reading more on the subject of the human brain's conduct and its connection to user experience, I recommend Moria Levy's summary of "Designing with the Mind in Mind".


"One of the best ways to reach somewhat of an understanding of the human world is to avoid our usual fixation on the psychological principles of the individual and think that human beings are mere atoms activated by simple rules and study the patterns these rules form" [Mark Buchanan].

Think about it…


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