UX Design Tool: Psychology

Design alone lacks understanding the user. When a designer utilizes the principles of psychology in design, it becomes a powerful tool and language that can influence the actions for the users. Psychology plays a prominent role in impacting human-centered user experience design.

Today, understanding the users have become one with design. As Donald A. Norman states in his book “The Design of Everyday Things,” he defines design as an act of communication. This also incorporates the idea of understanding the person whom the designer is communicating with to know the needs of the users. Norman understood and emphasized the importance of knowing the user. To make good design, it is important to understand the psychological principles of human behavior, aspirations, and motivations. Here are some effective psychological principles often applied in the design process:

Gestalt Principles
Gestalt Principles are set of principles stating that human minds organize patterns and objects. These principles include these five categories: Proximity, Similarity, Continuity, Closure, and Figure/Ground.

Proximity: When objects are placed in close proximity, the eye perceived them as a group rather than seen individually even if they aren’t similar.
Similarity: If a user sees objects that look somehow similar, they may automatically perceive them as the individual elements of one group. The similarity between elements is usually defined with shape, color, size, texture or value. The similarity gives users the sense of coherence between the design elements.
Continuity: It is the principle according to which the human eye moves naturally from one object to the other. This often happens through the creation of curved lines allowing the eye to flow with the line.
Closure: It is a technique based on the human eye’s tendency to see closed shapes. Closure works where an object is incomplete but the user perceives it as a full shape by filling in the missing parts.
Figure/Ground: The principle demonstrates the eye’s tendency to separate objects from their background. (UX Planet, Psychology in Design. Principles Helping Understand Users)

Gestalt Principle is useful in design to understand how the human mind unifies the visual elements and structure of design. It gives designers more freedom to design assuming that the human minds can organize patterns and objects (UX Planet, Psychology in Design. Principles Helping Understand Users).

Visceral Reactions
This is an intuitive gut reaction that we respond with when encountered with an experience or stimulus. Our neurotransmitters determine what emotions we feel, causing us to react without having cognitively process the information.
Visceral Reactions can be used by designers to create with impactful elements the target audience may favor. Some elements include beautiful photographs on the landing pages and colors, fonts, etc. that attract the target audience.

Psychology of Colors
Colors have impact on the user’s’ perception. It impacts emotions and reactions of the viewer. Color psychology is the “study of hues as a determinant of human behavior” (Wikipedia, Color Psychology). The use of color psychology is very commonly seen in company logos and branding. Here are some examples of meanings associated with colors:

  • Red: lust, power, excitement, love
  • Yellow: competence, happiness
  • Green: good taste, envy
  • Blue: masculine, competence, high quality, corporate
  • Pink: sophistication, sincerity, feminine
  • Violet/purple: authority, sophistication, power
  • Brown: ruggedness
  • Black: grief, sophistication, expensive, fear
  • White: happiness, sincerity, purity 

Designers can utilize the psychology of color to influence human’s mind, behavior, and reaction when designing with knowing what reactions the colors may cause in the user.

Recognition Patterns
Recognition patterns is the process of our cognitive mind to match information with information from our long term, short term, or working memory.
Often websites and brands utilize this theory to provide its customers familiar design. They keep consistent look-and-feel so that the user can recall from memory on how to utilize the site without having to learn to navigate through it.
Recognition pattern can also give a sense of security for its viewers. Designers can provide the sense of security by incorporating design elements that are consistent to what users may already know. For example, a bank website should have clear language, branding, and images that customers are familiar with. If the site changes its colors away from their branding and users do not recognize it, it can cause a sense of discomfort and distrust in the legitimacy of the site.

Scanning Patterns
Scanning patterns describe the way users’ view a website to see if they are interested in diving in deeper to the content. According to studies by Nielsen Norman Group, UXPin, several commonly known patterns are “F” and “Z” patterns.
F-pattern is the most commonly used pattern. It is when the user scans left to right, then goes down the page and scans again left to right and then straight down to see if he/she finds any interesting keywords. This “F” shaped scan more commonly occurs on pages that are text-heavy.
Z-pattern is when the user scans left to right, then diagonally down, and back across the page. This commonly occurs when the page is not heavy with text and user does not have to scroll down.
Designers can utilize this theory to incorporate design elements that will catch the viewer’s eyes at a glance. This can help increase viewers’ interests to a website (UXPlanet, F-Shaped Pattern for Reading Content, Z-Shaped Pattern for Reading Content).

Hick’s Law
This law describes the time it takes for a person to make his/her decision. The theory states that more decision the users are faced with, the longer it will take them to make a decision.
Designers can prevent users from having decision fatigue by limiting the options for users. Being overwhelmed with options, products to choose, or pictures to look at can make the user’s experience of a website negative. To be effective, designers are recommended to keep the options to a minimum (UX Planet, Design Principle: Hick’s Law – Quick Design Making).

More decisions the users are faced with, the longer it will take them to make a decision. (UX Planet, Design Principle: Hick’s Law – Quick Design Making)

Psychology plays a vital role in user experience design. The theories are effective tools to provide users with design that is centered to their needs. As a result, the use of psychology principles in user experience design can help enhance the experience, usability, learnability, and discoverability of a website.



Design Critique: Domino’s (iOS)

Domino’s app is an iOS and Andriod application that allows the user to conveniently order Domino’s Pizza from many devices including the Apple Watch. The application has the features to build pizza and order any other items the pizza store offers for delivery or pick-up from a nearby store location.

The process of ordering a pizza on the Domino’s app follows the logical experience similar to the one that can be experienced when ordering a pizza in the physical store. This familiarity allows the app to have strong discoverability and understandability of the affordances of the app. The constraint of the steps of ordering keeps the process easy to follow and limits room for slips.

Delivery or Carryout
The initial page of the app greets the user with two prominent buttons that says “Delivery,” and “Carryout.” Although the two buttons are led with the question, “Is this order for delivery or carryout?” it is difficult to read with the choice of font color and background image. The message to select is clear with the two recognizable red buttons and they effectively signifying the options for the user. Removing the leading question will not take away from the discoverability of the buttons and instead simplify the page. In addition, selecting “Delivery” or “Carryout” provides immediate feedback as the user is taken to the next step. The designer’s conceptual model seems to be very close, if not the same, as the user’s mental model as the app follows a very logical thought process.

Building Pizza
Once the customer information is filled out, the user is
taken to the menu page. 
It introduced with categories available
to order. The design is easy to perceive that the user is on the menu page but the page lacks attractiveness to be considered as good design according to the design challenge in the book, 
The Design of Everyday Things. The “Pizzas” option
and the red button to “Build Your Own Pizza” both are signifiers to go into the pizza section. The duplication makes it confusing and the red button being a shortcut to skip the pre-designed pizza and go directly to customize pizza, the red button
should be clarified by adding a label that communicates it
is a short cut.

The “Build Your Own Pizza” section is filled with list of items that can be added to the pizza. The interface is straight-forward with clear labeling of the topping categories. The order of the toppings follows the logical steps of making a pizza with choosing the sauce first to cover the base of the pizza. When the “plus” button is pressed to add onto the customized pizza, there is immediate feedback to show that the topping was added through the flashing red overlay on the top pizza summary section and yellow overlay over the item that was added. The “plus” button is dimmed when the topping has hit the maximum amount that can be on the pizza. This constraint delivers a clear message of reaching the maximum. The summary section on the top does not move when scrolling up and down the page. This keeps the summary visible at all times and provides a up-to-date mapping of the process.

Order Review
Once the order is finished and it is added to the cart, a review page appears showing all the items in the cart. Price is also calculated below. This is the first time price has been revealed. There were no immediate feedback of the total sum of price in the process of building the order and no way for the user set an expectation of the price previous to this step. For clear communications and expectations, the price of the items should appear on the order page (previous to the review page) as the user adds into the cart. Although the user is surprised with the sum total, the review page gives a chance to correct the slips and mistakes that might have occurred in the process.


Mapping “Tracking Delivery”
The Domino’s Tracker is a great mapping tool that shows live updates with what step the order is in. This tracker was a huge hit when it was first released because it is evidently a human aware, human centered design that understood both technology and needs of the user. Ordering food that is advertised to be “fast” sets an expectation for the food to arrive quickly. This expectation turns negative when the term “quick” is miscommunicated from Domino’s to the customer. The tracker clearly communicates what is happening and what is about to happen. If there is any sort of problem, the tracker informs the customer. The design of the tracker is familiar from information picked up in other tracking design. The tracker addresses the user’s frustration of not knowing where the order is and when it is estimated to arrive.

The overall design flow of the Domino’s app is user friendly. The design principles of Don Norman have been addressed with clear signifiers, useful feedbacks, easy to understand and discoverable features. This app is designed with human needs, capabilities, and behaviors in mind to accommodate what the users want and what technology is capable of. It is reliable and usable. However, the app lacks attractiveness of the design. It has easy to maneuver functions but has room to improve in its appearance. Editing and enhancing the application will make it greater experience for the users.