How Psychology and Design Go Hand-In-Hand

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Designing may seem like it’s all about the aesthetics, but it’s more than that. Understanding the psychology and cognitive science behind certain fonts and colors will make your design not only look appealing but also feel right to users.


Design for Attention

There are two basic types of attention; selective (focusing on one thing at a time) and divided attention (focusing on more than one thing at a time). Since the working memory capacity of an average human being is rather small, our brains tend to be more on the selective side.

What does this mean for you as a designer? You have to be able to design an interface that appeals to the selective brains of your users; like decreasing visual density, using modes and providing simple instructions, all of which are ways to help you build a smoother user experience.


Colors and Fonts DO Matter

The psychology behind colors is an entire science of its own, especially since they’re subjective; they evoke different feelings in every person. You should always pay attention to exactly how each color works and also to hue, value, shades, tones and tints.

Choosing a font is of the same significance; it’s like picking an outfit to wear for the day. The font you pick will determine what impression you’ll get from the users. It’s all about having them make the right assumption of your website or interface. Also the same as choosing an outfit, it’s all about appropriateness; the font will set the tone and can influence the users’ feelings towards the design.


The Psychology of Whitespace

While a lot of designers are horrified of the concept, it’s actually a very important element in design. When used right, it could improve both user interface and user experience.

If you take a look at Apple’s website, you can see how there is a lot of whitespace in their design. This design helps guide the users’ focus and attention to what’s important; the product. Whitespace is also effectively used by search engines like Google, where it increases the possibility of interaction by highlighting the call-to-action, which is “Search!”.


Getting Users to a Decision: Hick’s Law

While it may sound liberating to be given an endless amount of choices, Hick’s Law says otherwise. According to Hick’s Law, the more options you give someone, the longer it takes for them to make a decision.

Furthermore, reducing the amount of choices the user has to make will speed up the users’ interactions. This will reduce the chances of your users becoming frustrated and eventually giving up when filling out a survey for example.


Creating Intuitive Designs

Intuitive design directs the user to the important task at-hand without the need to stop and think. However, what’s intuitive for one is maybe non-intuitive to the other, which is why creating an intuitive design is challenging.


Study your users by conducting field studies or usability tests which will give you an idea on what makes an intuitive design for the majority of users. Make your design as simple and obvious as it gets.



Understanding the psychology of users will improve the users’ interactions with your design. Every element and aspect of your design, whether it’s font size or the amount of whitespace, has to be carefully studied; does it fulfil the purpose of the design? Will this improve the user’s attention, focus, interactions… etc.? Remember, it’s not only about what might be visually appealing to you, but also to your users.

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