5 Psychology Principles Every UX Designer Should Know

Author's profile picture
Lydia Chamberlain
September 2, 2020

When it comes to using a product, it’s important to design with the users’ perspective in mind. 

Understanding how your users think and will navigate through your product will make all of the difference. 

Psychology, believe it or not, plays an important role in understanding how your target users think. 

By understanding how different psychology principles influence human behavior, you can leverage the principles to create an effective and pleasurable experience. 

Below I will walk you through 5 important principles that will improve the usability and efficiency of your designs. 

Hick’s Law

Think of a time you went to a restaurant and the menu was more than 6 pages. You were hungry, but you also wanted to look at all of the options to make sure you were choosing the best possible item on the menu. 

Even though it took longer, you flipped through all of the pages, sorted through all the options in your head and finally narrowed it down to one choice. Reading through all 6 pages of 100 items and making a decision would take significantly longer than scanning a 1 page menu of 20 items and making a decision. 

The same principle applies to designing interfaces. 

Hick’s law states the time it takes for users to make a decision increases as the number of choices offered increases. 

How can you apply Hick’s Law to your designs?

Reduce clutter! Users come to your website or app with a specific goal in mind: to find the menu options of your restaurant. To find the address of your practice. To purchase an item. Users want to be able to accomplish their goal without hiccups or distractions, because that would take away from the user experience. 

You can accomplish this by removing all barriers (links, images, buttons, etc) that may distract the user from their goal. Keep in mind, you would need to conduct user research to understand what user’s are going to your website for - and then specifically make sure they can accomplish that goal without issues. 

Source:  www.lingscars.com

Hick’s Law can also be applied in the information architecture within your design. For example, make sure that you organize navigation options into large categories, and break them into subcategories so users can quickly and intuitively find things. 

Nike does a fantastic job of organizing their products into large categories (men/women/kid/customize/sale), and then breaking these large categories down into smaller subcategories (shoes/clothing/accessories/shop collection/etc.)

Source: nike.com 

Von Restorff Effect

The Von Restorff Effect predicts that when multiple similar items are grouped together, the item that is the most distinct from the rest will most likely be remembered. 

In the design world, this psychological principle is referred to as “Call-To-Actions,” or CTA’s. Most websites utilize call-to-actions to emphasize the importance of the item in question. For example, most of the time these call-to-actions manifest as “contact us” or “add to cart” or any other type of button the company wants users to focus their attention on. 

Source: Canva.com

For example, the image above shows the Von Restorff Effect in action. The call-to-action is the “free 30 day upgrade” button, because Canva wants users to upgrade. They distinguish this button from the other buttons by using a color that stands out - so your attention is immediately drawn to the button.

Psychology of Colors

Color psychology is the study of how color affects human behavior. Colors are typically associated with emotions and feelings and are commonly used by websites and phone apps to elicit these emotions accordingly. Listed below are some colors and their general characteristics.

Blue: strong, honest, calm, loyal, trustworthy, secure

Corporate business and a lot of medical practices will use blue to convey a trustworthy and secure type of vibe. 


Pink: feminine, passionate, youthful, fun, nurturing

Pink colors typically display tenderness and excitement, it also embodies female energy. 


Orange: happy, sociable, friendly, affordable, enthusiastic 

Orange is typically a fun and social color, used to draw attention and more often be playful. 


Jakob’s Law

Jakob’s Law states that “users spend most of their time on other sites. This means that users prefer your site to work the same way as all the other sites they already know.” 

There’s simply no need to reinvent the wheel, when the wheel has been working perfectly for so long. The internet has been around long enough that certain principles have been established and are common across most websites. 

Deviating from these principles could lead to users being confused, angry, and annoyed from having to stop their flow and figure out your new website convention. 

Listed below are some commonly established website principles:

  • Place your navigation at the top of the page
  • Click on your logo to return to the home page
  • Utility links go in the top right corner (shopping cart, profile, account)

Memory Limitations

Our working memory capacity is around 10-15 seconds, while only being able to remember 3-4 items at a time. 

Most people are constantly multi-tasking throughout the day: watching TV, listening to music, on our phone, working on a project, texting to people, working on the computer, and the list goes on and on. 

Even while writing this, I have 8 programs running at once and 10 tabs open on chrome. I need to write down every task as soon as it pops into my head because I know I will forget it in a few seconds otherwise.

Just like in real life, we must account for our limited working memory capacity on interfaces. You can assist users by creating experiences that rely on recognition instead of recall. Don’t create a website with a maze of un-intuitive links. Provide user assistance with quick tutorials, and provide an undo option for users in case a mistake is accidentally made.

let's talk

Have an idea? Need some design expertise?
Let us help.
Send a Message