Designers don’t need to be psychologists to make beautiful designs, but if we truly want to provide a rich user experience, then it’s important to understand a few psychological traits that most humans share. We all know that a “pretty” design often performs better than one that is deemed less attractive, but why? Well, many human activities and decisions are driven by biases that are hardwired to help us make decisions.

When we’re designing websites or web apps, it’s important to understand how our design choices play into these biases and spark different behaviors. In this week’s 352 Noodles & Doodles, I’ll explain how some of these traits work and how we can navigate them to deliver a compelling digital experience. Enjoy!

Transcript below.

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[Daniel Alves:] Hi there. I’m Daniel Alves. I’m a designer here at 352, and today, I’m going to talk to you about some things about our psychology as humans that can affect our behavior. These are things that you can take advantage of in your web design or application. The first thing I’m going to talk to you about is isolation bias. This is the tendency for humans to pick out things or memorize things that stand out among their peers. For example, we have a green man standing out against a group of men with bowler hats. You can take advantage of this in your website to call attention to items that you really want a user to follow, for example, a ‘subscribe’ button or an ‘add to cart’ button. You want to make that decision stand out among all the other decisions they have to make.
The next one is social bias. This is something that really covers a whole range of biases that we tend to have as humans. The basic idea is the bandwagon effect that we follow along what other people do, especially those people that are close to us like friends and family. This is one reason why Facebook is such a powerful tool and such a market force.The next one is scarcity bias. This is essentially that we tend to gravitate towards things that are going to be running out soon or are already gone. We tend to place a lot of value on them. E-commerce sites take advantage of this by alerting you that there’s only two left or time is running out.
The next one is inertia bias, and this is the idea that we tend to make decisions based on things that support our either belief structure or previous decisions that we’ve made in the past. You can lead users down a path of commitment by giving them smaller choices along the way instead of trying to force them into bigger decisions immediately. You want to give them small little pieces that will build up inertia and give them the opportunity to follow through on a bigger commitment later.
The next one is aesthetic usability effect. For this one, the idea is that we gravitate towards things that are more beautiful or appear easier to use. We have an example of a spork here. This is something that, in theory, it looks like it would be easier to use because it’s both a spoon and a fork and that’s awesome. But in reality, it’s not easier to use. This is an example of how this bias tends us to lead to decisions that are actually not that great. If you ever try to use a spork for eating cereal, for example, it ends up being a mess. But the idea here is essentially that we want to lead with our websites or our applications to have really good aesthetic qualities and make them appear usable but also follow through with that usability and make everything work really well. The idea is that we tend to gravitate towards those things that are more beautiful.
The last one is negativity bias. We have an image of a thumbs down button with a question mark. This is a popular thing among commenters that people want a ‘dislike’ button on Facebook. There’s a reason why Facebook does not include a ‘dislike’ button, and that’s because of the negativity bias. The negativity bias is basically that we, as humans, tend to memorize things that are negative more than positive. The whole idea of Facebook is for you to share more information. And even if you have a thumbs down button there, let’s say you post something and you get a thumbs down on it, that thumbs down is going to weigh on you a lot more than any thumbs ups that you get on that item. Obviously, they don’t want you to get that impact so they’re not giving you that option.
One thing that you can do in web design, at least, is to either de-emphasize or make error messages or negative information more palatable by including friendly messages with it or guiding the user to the appropriate or positive outcome and not put so much attention on any negative information that you have to give to people. That’s a wrap for this one. We encourage you to subscribe to our 352 channel on YouTube. Please do that. I hope this was helpful for you, and I’ll see you next time.


352 is an innovation and growth firm. Leading companies hire us to find billion-dollar opportunities, build killer new products and create hockey-stick growth. We bring grit and new-fashioned thinking to innovation, digital development and growth marketing.