The psychology behind UX: what drives user behaviors – part 1

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Making sense of the behavioral patterns of your users can be complicated. Human behavior is sometimes predictable, but at other times it is very difficult to anticipate a specific action or reaction from users. However, there are important psychological facts and facets that UX designers should consider if they want to really get inside the mind of an average user and understand what drives them to do what they do.

People will typically put in minimal effort

As behavioral psychologist Susan Weinschenk points out in an article, people for the most part tend to put the least amount of effort into things most of the time. It’s not that we are intent on being lazy, but instead we adopt this mentality as a mechanism to save our energy and time. This is precisely why UX designer should keep things simple, and only require users to complete one task at a time to meet their objective.

Whether it is in real life or on the web, everyone can appreciate a shortcut, or option that saves them time and effort. So why not design with this requirement in mind? For example instead of requiring users to refill information about themselves on a website or app, you can use autofill to do the heavy lifting for them. Another great example are retailers that make suggestions to online shoppers based on their past purchases and preferences, these recommendations save a lot of time which would have otherwise been wasted by sifting through endless options.

People have limitations

Just because consumers are spoilt for choice when it comes to technology, that doesn’t mean that they actually want to sort through all of the features or tools on an app or website to find the ones that work for them. A study by psychologists Sheena Iyengar & Mark Lepper found that shoppers who were presented with 24 flavors of jam purchased a lot less of the product (3%) than those who only sampled six flavors of jam.

The above example proves an important point – if you give users too much information and choice, there is a bigger chance that they will feel overwhelmed and decide to go elsewhere. Another study by Infolinks also showed the negative impact that information overload is having on users. The study revealed that 86% of consumers suffer from banner blindness, meaning they simply do not pay attention to ads due to the fact they are constantly present during their online experiences.

A proactive way of addressing the limitations of users would be to only present them with the content, features and tools that they need at the right times. For example, on a particular screen they may just want to digest one important message or make complete one simple task – and that’s okay.

People are prone to making mistakes

Mistakes are a fact of life and we as humans are prone to making errors frequently whether they may be big or small. This is also the case when it comes to technology which can sometimes be a love-hate relationship. We need it to be productive and interact with the world around us. When we somehow veer off the right UX path, it can be frustrating and leave us with a feeling of failure.

The takeaway here for UX design is to assume from the beginning that your target users will often make mistakes and then provide the right level of functionality and flexibility that allows them to go back and fix errors easily. If you really want to win over your users, prevent these mistakes from happening from the start, or re-evaluate why the mistake is happening and adjust the UX to make tasks easier to complete. The last thing a user wants to see is a standard error message with no solution.

Human memory is tricky to say the least

Widely referenced scientific research conducted decades ago by George Miller concluded that people on average can only remember three to four things at a time. For the things that we actually do remember, the chances are that our recollections of experiences and events are complete or fully accurate.

Keeping this in mind, UX designers can guide users to complete a repetitive task – a great way of easily training them to follow a pattern which they can easily remember, while using data to personalize their experience will help motivate them to come back for more.

People are social by nature

Well before the advent of Facebook and Twitter, people have been using technology for the purpose of being social, sharing, and engaging in dialogue. The rapid success of social networking websites and apps is a testament to users’ strong desire to be heard, acknowledged and validated by our peers.

Whether it be blogs, user reviews, user profiles, or recommendations, or any other interactive feature, UX design should include some kind of social outlet or platform that motivates users to share knowledge and experiences.

Psychology’s influence on user behaviors and decisions is by far more powerful than any feature or tool a UX designer can come up with. By applying the psychological aspects to your UX design principles, you can gain a better understanding about what factors drive users toward certain actions, which will help you build the right solutions that resonate with them.

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