What is psychology, and why is psychology important to
design, focusing on cognitive psychology for Web design


User Psychology

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Jason Annand























Web content has been identified as one of the main factors
contributing to repeat visits. As content on the web includes text, pictures,
graphics, layout, sound, and motion, making the right web content decisions are
critical to effective web design. This is where psychology comes in, as while
an understanding of marketing strategies that attract visitors to websites is
beginning to emerge, how to convert web surfers to repeat visitors is a less
well-understood phenomenon.by using psychology we can start to understand the
phenomenon of the users mind and how designers can use this knowledge to condition
the user to revisit the website numerous times and increase user participation
within the site.

























There seems to be a gap in some designer’s
knowledge in regard to using the science of psychology in designing a product
for the end user. User psychology is a vital tool when designing a product or
service for a user, as if the designer can relate more closely with a user by
gaining insight to the way the user thinks and perceives things then the
designer has an opportunity to use this knowledge gained from psychology to
create a successful end product. This is why user psychology is important to
design it is extremely interesting how much design depends on psychology even
on a basic level. This is particularly true in cognitive psychology as this
branch of psychology deals with how the user thinks and perceives and this is
directly related to a user viewing or testing a website for the first time.

This paper will, using research on the subject,
attempt to reinforce the importance of psychology to web design and how by
using psychology in the design of a website can create a product that relates
to the user on their level so that the users journey with the website is a successful
user experience. This paper will also touch on several methods used within
cognitive psychology and will explain how these methods are used by designers
to manipulate the user into feeling a certain way about the product being used.




















Psychology is a science which
studies the human mind and its functions, particularly those functions which
affect behaviour in a given context. Psychology is the science of the mind and

Psychology as a science was born in
1879 by Wilhelm Wundt, a German psychologist who founded psychology as a truly
independent experimental field of study. He set up the first laboratory that
carried out psychological research exclusively at Leipzig University.

 There are various psychology approaches which
all have their place and are each used in their respective environments. the
foremost of these are noted below with a brief explanation of what each branch
is commonly used for:

Development psychology which is the
study of how a person develops psychologically throughout their life.

Evolutionary psychology which
examines how psychological adjustments during evolution have affected human

Forensic psychology which is the
application of psychology to the process of criminal investigation and the law.

Health psychology observes how
health can be influenced by behaviour, biology and social context.

Neuropsychology examines how the
brain functions in relation to different behaviours and psychological

Occupational psychology investigates
how people perform at work in order to develop an understanding of how
organizations function.

Social psychology is a study of how
the behaviour and thoughts of people are influenced by the actual or implied
presence of others.

clinical psychology which is an
integration science based on theory and practice

most importantly to this paper are
the branches of psychology that relate closely with the topic of this paper
which are namely user psychology, HCI and UX psychology. These branches of
psychology are all related to cognitive psychology which will be discussed in
depth further in the paper. These branches all have a main focus on user
interaction and how it can be achievable to create products suited to a particular
user or user group’s needs

Cognitive Psychology investigates
internal mental processes such as how people think, perceive and communicate.
At the centre of cognitive psychology is how people acquire, process and store
information. Many say that cognitive psychology is the study of intelligence.
practical applications for cognitive research may include how to improve
memory, increase the accuracy of decision making.


Psychology has an important place
when designing software or services for a user. Psychology helps us to
understand how we act and perceive various things around us, it helps us to
understand behaviours and why or how we do things the way that we do.

This is important when designing
something as if we can relate to how a user may perceive certain things when
buying a product or service than as a designer you can use this information to
develop your product around the user’s needs.in this way the user that relates
more to a certain product may be encouraged to buy it more than other products
that they do not relate with.

When designing a website or app it
is beneficial for designers to understand these core concepts, as being
familiar with these concepts will ultimately conclude with a successful website
or app which will encourage repeat visiting from the user group that is being
targeted by the designer. People don’t have enough time in the day to pay
attention to everything competing for their attention. Because of this we
filter out almost everything so that we can focus on the goal or task at hand,
as a result of this we ignore other things that around us, even things that are
directly in front of us.

When it comes to designing a
website, it is crucial to make a clutter free product so that the user can be
directed to where it really wants to go with ease.

When we focus on one thing, we ignore other things around us.
And this happens a lot on the web because we’re very task-focused. By using
cognitive psychology designers are learning new skills and approaches on how to
better understand a user’s need from a psychological point of view. Cognitive
load is very important to the way in which we can process information. Cognitive load refers to
the total amount of mental effort being used in a person’s working memory. To
put it simply, it is the amount of thought you need to exercise in order to
complete a specific task.

One of the reasons we use design patterns is because they’re
something we’re programmed to do by default – so it’s easier for the users to
recognise and learn something new if they can discern it into a pattern from something
they already understand reducing the cognitive load of the user making it
simpler for the user to process the information presented to them.







Gestalt principles are used in design as the principles focus on a user’s
ability to perceive certain things a certain way, by using these principles
designers can better understand of a user’s mind and how they think and
perceive their products.

Following and using the Gestalt principles for website design is
a sure way to ensure that designers make intelligent decisions about the
designs of their products.

The fundamental law that governs
the Gestalt Principles is that we tend to order our experience in a manner
that’s regular, orderly, and recognizable. This is what allows us to create
meaning in a complex and chaotic world. 

These principles help the designer determine which
design elements are most effective in a given situation. For example, when to
use visual hierarchy, background shading, gradients, and how to group similar
items and distinguish different ones. These principles hold the power to
influence our visual perception, which allows designers to direct our attention
to specific points of focus, get us to take specific actions, and create
behavioural change.

By using these principles designers can design
products that solve the customer’s problem or meet the user’s need in a way
that’s beautiful, pleasing, and intuitive to use. Some of these principles than
can be relevant to web design are described below.


Users perceive objects that appear similar to have similar uses.
As a means to communicate function in a quick and simple way, this principle
use in web design is massive.by creating similar icons or structures a lot of
time will be saved explaining functionality to the user.

Continuation is the effect of the eye
moving through one object to reach another object within the design.

Continuation occurs in the example above,
because the viewer’s eye will naturally follow a line or curve. The smooth
flowing crossbar of the “H” leads the eye directly to the maple






Closure occurs when an object is incomplete or a space is not completely
enclosed. If enough of the shape is indicated, people perceive the whole
by filling in the missing information.

Even though the above image is incomplete,
there is enough of the image for the user to complete the shape, this is when
closure occurs.

















Other elements of psychology
that are used in design and are used by designers focus on are visceral
reactions of the user. These kinds of reactions come from the part of our head called “old
brain” responsible for the instincts and it reacts much faster than our
consciousness does. Visceral reactions are rooted in our DNA, so they can be
easily predicted.

Designers using this knowledge can then aim
at creating a positive aesthetic impression with their design. Designers
generally know what looks nice to people and what doesn’t if the target
audience and their needs are known.


Psychology of colours is another tool used by designers to make
their products more ascetically pleasing to the users within the target market.

Colours have a great impact on the user’s perception, in this
sense designers should choose colours knowingly for their product to ensure
that the product sends the correct message to the user.

Designers should also adhere to Hicks Law (Hick, Hyman 1952) which states that the more options users are exposed
to the longer it takes them to make a decision. The more products you give to
users to choose between, be it products or images the more time and energy it
takes to decide on the next step of interaction. This may result in the user
becoming frustrated with the choices before them and may ultimately result in
the user leaving the site with lingering bad feelings towards the product.

By adhering to Hicks Law designers can keep any
buttons, images on a page to a minimum removing any unnecessary choices the
usability of the product increases.


The Von Restorff effect
is, the idea that the oddball out is the one that gets remembered.

When designing for
websites sometimes you want your audience’s eye to be drawn to one spot –even
if there are other design elements around it. This might mean using a
different colour, font, size, etc.

In this way, you can use the Von Restorff effect
throughout the site pages to draw the users’ eyes to certain spots on a page.








Exploring the principle of conceptual integration reveals the cognitive
processes occurring in the human mind almost subconsciously when engaging with
a product or app. Our job is not to ignore or hijack these, but engage with
them. This is why making the case to include cognitive psychology as part of
the website process is important, because it will enable designers to explain
their design decisions intelligently.

psychology plays an important role in web design as understanding the
experience of the audience and their perception of your web design gives
designers a great advantage in creating a product that the user can relate to
and will lead to an enjoyable user experience which will result in repeat
visits to the website.



































Cognition and decision making






















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