There is an argument to be made when it comes to humans and the way we operate on a daily basis. Every action we partake in when it comes to products or services we use is based on psychological principles. Whether you are a professional web or graphic designer outsourcing your skills to would-be clients or are looking for ways to elevate your own website with user experience (UX) trends, you should look no further than cognitive psychology.
According to Tech Jury, for example, 52% of internet users claim to have given up on a website due to its poor aesthetics with only 1% of customers claiming that an eCommerce website met all of their UX expectations. Small Biz Genius also published data in regards to UX recently stating that 70% of online businesses outright fail due to poor web usability, with 88% of customers stating that they would never return to a website after having a bad user experience. This is because most often we chase popular trends and try to copy industry leaders instead of applying tried-and-tested psychological rules to our design solutions.
However, finding the right approach to this UX design methodology isn’t as simple as opening a book on psychology 101 and calling it a day. With that in mind, let’s dive into some of the most effective cognitive psychology tricks for winning UX design which you can apply to your projects or personal website right now.
The Elementals of Cognitive Psychology
Before we get into the UX design tricks revolving around cognitive psychology, let’s take a moment to discuss the term itself. As the name suggests, cognitive psychology is centered on human cognition and the way in which we perceive visual stimuli (information). In terms of design, this can be anything from color palettes, different shapes, navigation element placement, etc.
Once a customer is conditioned into thinking that “click A to get to B” is your website’s modus operandi, they will instinctively search out relevant products or information quickly and effortlessly. According to James Mitchel, Head of Content Department at Supreme Dissertations, “Following pre-existing psychological principles in regards to content creation, web design and UX is a sure way of generating leads and revenue online due to the universal nature of cognitive thinking”. Once you realize that all humans (us included) follow a strict pattern of visual recognition > informational perception > self-interest action, you will have a much easier time creating memorable UX design environments for your clients or customers going forward.
Advantages of Integrating Cognitive Psychology into UX Design
Now that we have a clearer understanding of how cognitive psychology can affect the final UX design solution, let’s talk about the direct advantages of its integration for your brand or business. We’ve established that cognitive psychology tricks and understands the way we interact with products, services and websites (in terms of design).
However, once you apply the guidelines and tricks mentioned below, the way your leads engage content, products and services will change for the better in a drastic way. In that vein, we can define several benefits of cognitive psychology in UX design, including but not limited to:
- Streamlined customer experience (CX)
- Lower bounce rate and higher lead generation
- Higher revenue generation from new and recurring leads
- Higher industry authority and brand reputation
- High return on investment (ROI) once UX design is in place
1) Design the Experience as a Whole
When it comes to one customer’s perception of a product or service, it should come off as a wholesome and cohesive experience – the same can be said about website UX design. From the landing page to the checkout button, your website should give off the impression that one team with a clear goal created it.
Make sure to create your website with an idea of what its main purpose should be, how a user would navigate it and how you would monetize it from day one. Every web or graphic designer on your team should be aware of this initial brief and follow strict guidelines on how to create their segment of the website or content for UX design to take hold. This will create a cognitive psychology effect with the viewer, ensuring that they perceive your website as coherent, sensible and professional above all else.
2) Rely on Visual Brand Standards
If your brand or company doesn’t have a style guide present for corporate documents and branding, it may be time to create it for the purposes of UX design. Elements such as colors, shapes, fonts, button placement, logo positioning, etc. are what is typically associated with brand style guides. Visual brand standards are a perfect cognitive psychology mechanism which will allow you to create a connection with your visitors.
As with our previous point, your brand standards should be applied onto every aspect of your website, social media pages, products and services going forward to ensure a wholesome UX design for future and existing leads. Avoid deviating from the style guide you’ve defined as an official for your brand and you will undoubtedly achieve positive cognitive psychology effects with your online presence.
3) Facilitate Scanning & Skimming
Whether you offer eCommerce products to international customers or rely on service-based revenue generation, your website’s visitors will undoubtedly scan and skim through your content at some point. This type of behavior is typical for humans and falls directly into cognitive psychology in terms of skimming a large group of items in the search for the one that meets our needs.
Think of it as walking into a book store or a supermarket and scanning for items relevant to your grocery list. You may attempt to read as many labels as possible but at some point, you will give up and either ask for help (customer servicing) or narrow your search field down to essential sections (keyword search). Make sure that your UX design facilitates both scanning and skimming when it comes to content browsing.
Don’t assume that users will read through page-long paragraphs of content, blog posts or product descriptions before they arrive at the item that suits them – they will likely abandon the search before it happens. Instead, meet them halfway and optimize your content in terms of visual hierarchy (bold, italic letters, hyperlinked content, multimedia, etc.) and your cognitive psychology efforts will bear fruit much more easily.
4) Create Short-Form Content
When it comes to online content, users are typically less inclined to spend a lot of time reading long-form content. This is why you should adopt a policy of creating short-form content throughout your UX design initiative to support the cognitive psychology argument. “Short-form content will ensure that users read through and interact with any form of writing, multimedia, product description or call to action you present them with”, says Dorian Martin, content marketing specialist at WowGrade.
Short content works especially well if you want to attract the mobile audience which digests content on a smaller screen and in different atmospheric environments (strong sunlight/night sky/etc.). This approach to content creation will also ensure that you create more relevant content in higher frequency and retain a more sizable audience as a result of your search ranking relevance. Present your users with short, precise and informative content throughout the UX design and the cognitive psychology effect will be that much more wholesome.
5) White Space & Visual Grouping
Depending on who you ask in the design circles, there are positives and negatives attached to white space and visual grouping in terms of UX design. White space is an essential part of professional web or graphic design experience creation and can closely be associated with cognitive psychology in the form of visual grouping. The scale of each item and the distance between related items is what is commonly referred to as “white space”, which is a derogatory term inherited from printed media such as magazines and book publications.
Your website should feature white spaces throughout the navigation experience and allow content to breathe while also featuring visually-grouped content in the form of blog posts, products and other related items. For example, if a user visits your blog section, the blog posts you’ve published should be grouped in a grid, listed in a row or otherwise organized into a cohesive group instead of placed randomly throughout a page. This will effectively condition users into predicting where to look for the next post or item of interest in a linear fashion, allowing for a more streamlined UX design experience.
6) Implement Calls to Action
People are creatures of habit and as such, we are used to following orders or suggestions from our infancy. This cognitive psychology trigger can be used in the form of carefully-placed calls to action throughout your UX design. Calls to action are defined as a traditional marketing strategy with the intent to encourage some form of action from the viewer.
Whether it’s “contact us today” or “follow this link for more information”, calls to action can effectively lead your users throughout the customer’s experience in an efficient manner. Featuring little-to-no calls to action will result in an unguided, unfocused experience with a lot of expectations placed on the shoulders of your users. Make sure to help them in their browsing with strategic calls to action both in website navigation features and individual blog posts or products available for purchase.
7) Ask for Follow-up Feedback
Lastly, your interaction with the user doesn’t end after their checkout or subscription has been processed. Instead, you can follow up on their UX by introducing follow-up feedback surveys and polls in regards to their experience. These surveys can be delivered via email or introduced as a post-conversion page with several quick questions which can be used to further refine your UX design going forward.
This type of post-engagement feedback submission will ensure that individual users think back on their cognitive psychology experience with your website or eCommerce store and provide you with constructive comments as a result. Asking for feedback is one of the simplest and most efficient ways to continue your UX design’s development for an indefinite time and remain relevant to your customers far more than any industry competitor may be able to.
The Psychology in Design (Conclusion)
While the tricks and guidelines we’ve discussed may seem abstract in nature, it’s because they are based on psychology and behavior triggers which we all share as humans. Both graphic and web design are deeply rooted in human perception of visual elements, cognitive understanding and whether or not what we are presented with “makes sense”. Once you look at your UX design from that point of view, it will be much easier to develop a cohesive online experience for your users going forward regardless of the industry you want to position your brand in.
Helene Cue is a passionate writer and editor who explores a broad spectrum of topics that revolve around marketing and tech. She currently works as an in-house writer at GrabMyEssay and as a content marketing specialist at Studicus. Her pieces are always captivating and informative.