Whether we’d like to admit it or not, humans are incredibly biased creatures; and understanding these biases can help a designer predict and provoke responses. As Joe Sparano, graphic designer for Oxide Design Co. once said: ”Good design is obvious. Great design is transparent.”
Nothing makes for better design than knowing what makes your users tick. But before we can predict how a user will interact with a design, it’s important to understand cognitive biases and the shortcuts our brains take when processing information. Some of the most important psych tricks for designers deal with capitalizing off of these biases to direct attention in subtle ways.
Psych tricks that every designer should know
Salience refers to when one object stands out from the others around it. Of course, there are some pretty standard ways to make something salient, like color contrast; but one of the best ways to make something salient is to make sure it’s relevant to your user. Our attention is drawn to whatever seems most relevant at the moment, so being able to identify and design for these moments is crucial.
Think With Google defined these as micro-moments, and each one is an opportunity to influence a user’s actions. Great design takes context into consideration and makes sure to simplify everything that could get in the way during those want-to-do moments, want-to-buy or show-me-how moments.
Mental models are psychological representations of real situations. We make sense of the world through experience, then use these experiences as models to anticipate and interpret each new scenario we’re exposed to. Organizing files on a computer seems intuitive because it mimics the process of putting tangible documents into folders: a digital process that plays off of a mental model we have for organization. Our mental models affect everything from decision-making to reasoning.
Mapping out a mental model is basically the process of discovering what your users are familiar with and respond to intuitively. Designers can map out what a person understands about the real world and replicate those models while designing.