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Human cognition principles that could shape UX

Human cognition principles that could shape UX

My style of blog writing is usually opinion based. However, in this article, I will leverage the research done in the field of Psychology over the years and will try to connect some of the known theories to UX design. These principles, when applied, could help us create better designs.

1.  Serial position effect:

People have a tendency to best remember the first and last item of a series. This is probably the reason why ABC & XYZ stand out the most compared to the other alphabets.

How could we use this to help us design better?

We can use this by emphasizing the key information at the beginning and end while placing the remaining information in between. Most companies make use of this principle, especially in their landing pages. The first section of the landing page communicates the key reasons to buy their product, the middle section shows relatively less important information and the final section provides the call to action information.

2. Von Restorff effect:

Von Restorff effects, also known as isolation effect, highlights the object of focus. In other words, when multiple similar objects are present, the one that differs from the rest is most likely to be remembered.

How could we use this to help us design better?

We could make use of this effect to make certain information stand out. This can be used when we need the user to focus on a particular item within a list, eg: An at-risk card when the remaining cards are in their normal state.

3. Zeigarnik effect:

People remember incomplete or interrupted tasks better than completed tasks. B.W Zeigarnik, a Soviet psychologist, conducted a test on memory, in which she compared memory in relation to complete and incomplete tasks, she found that the tasks which are incomplete are more likely to be remembered than successful ones.

How could we use this to help us design better?

We could use this to trick users and make them do certain things they wouldn’t otherwise pay attention to. One of the most famous professional networking websites uses this effect to make users complete their profile by showing them some illusionary progress and tricking them into believing that their profile is incomplete.

4. Hick’s law:

The amount of time it takes to make a decision increases with the number and complexity of choices.

How could we use this to help us design better?

We could make the navigation choices less complex thereby enabling users to find items with ease. We also do not need to show all information on the first screen, it is okay to break up complex processes into simpler steps.

5. Miller’s law:

The average person can only keep 7 (+ or – 2) items in their working memory.

How could we use this to help us design better?

We must understand that the average human working memory is limited. When given too many choices, the cognitive load increases causing decision paralysis. While designing we should try to minimize the choices given to a user at any moment, especially in places such as navigation, forms, and drop-downs. Any element that isn’t helping the user achieve their goal is working against them.