designMay 14, 2019

6 Psychological Principles You Should Be Using in UX design

Nikita Roy

User Experience is about studying and understanding your user’s behavior and psychology when making decisions. Human psychology dictates human behavior to a large extent. As a user experience designer, knowing how different psychology principles influence user behavior is a necessary asset.

Let’s look at 6 psychological principles that will help you boost your usability and effectiveness of your designs.

Hick’s Law

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

This fairly simple human behavioral pattern can help you make effective design decisions.

Your users want to have things simple. They don’t like complicated processes and navigations. Minimum effort with maximum benefits is what every user is looking for. So, what does it mean for the web design process?

In order to make your users take desired actions, give them as minimum options as possible. This means you remove unnecessary links, buttons and distractions. Don’t complicate the navigation. Cut down on the long lists and divide your architecture into broad categories. Don’t give all the navigation in one place. Divide and conquer. And most importantly, reduce the time taken by the users to take action. This is the surest way of making them take that action. 

Gestalt Principles of Visual Perception

According to the Gestalt theory, viewers subconsciously group together separated objects to perceive them as a whole.

The human mind is a fascinating place. The mind perceives information in ways that give a sense of completeness. Therefore, often times minor gaps and disturbances are overlooked by our brain.

The Gestalt principle is further divided into 6 sub-categories

Law of Symmetry

Symmetry is naturally pleasing to the human eye. This is why when we see certain objects, we see them forming symmetric shapes around the center. Design ideas? Look at the McDonald’s logo.

Law of Symmetry Image

Law of Proximity

Elements placed closed together are perceived as a single unit or a group. Here’s looking at the Adidas logo for a real-world example.

law of proximity adidas

Law of Similarity

Similar elements are often perceived as a group when placed in close proximity to each other.  Like the image below where the similarity in shapes makes us group the squares and circles together.

law of symmetry image

Figure and Ground

The law states that users can differentiate between a figure (any object) and its surrounding area (the ground) and can switch between them to see different images. For example, this logo by Pittsburg Zoo & PPG Aquarium. Notice how the white space around the tree forms the shape of an orangutan and a panther.

figure and ground image and logo

Law of Closure

An incomplete object can be perceived as a whole by mentally filling up the gaps or spaces. IBM’s logo uses this law to great advantage.

ibm logo

Law on Continuity

The process happens when our eyes are compelled to move continuously from one object to another. Generally seen on objects with curved lines, the principle has been used by many brands. For example the logo for Hotel Association of Canada

law of continuity

The Psychology of Persuasion

This principle states that users need to be convinced before taking any action. The psychology of persuasion in business translates into influencing users to commit an action or make a decision.

There are 6 ways of influencing in a business


It means offering something upfront. Think free ebooks, blogs or any form of free content.


Influencing user action by building or associating yourself with an authoritative figure. Authority can be expressed through visual appearance or explicitly credible content. This is because people tend to listen to sources that have credibility.


It is common human behavior to desire for things that are limited in availability. Leveraging this psychology in user experience design can mean giving “exclusive” access, creating a sense of urgency through “Limited offers”, offering “invite only” content and showing a countdown to deadlines etc. A great example is how travel websites show the number of booking left to influence you into booking their packages fast.


An interesting human psychology which asserts that humans tend to agree to requests by other people who they like. In modern user experience, this has resulted in what we see today as “Influencer marketing”.

Social Proof

Users tend to believe more about actions that have been proven positive in the past. From a user experience point of view, the law is used in user ratings, user reviews and recommendations sections on applications.

The Psychology of Colors

Color psychology is the science of how color impacts human behavior. Studies show that up to 80% of consumers think that color increases brand recognition.

Color psychology is a vastly interesting aspect of user experience design. Happy, positive colors tend to be linked to the likeability of a product. Cognitive psychology believes that the more attractive a product is, the more usable it is thought of as.

In turn, positive attraction is linked to higher quality which can boost sales.

Each color on the color grid is associated with a particular human feeling. Brands have been using colors to impart personality and authenticity to their image for a long time. Think Coca-Cola’ red to denote energy, action and boldness. And McDonald’s yellow to denote playfulness, logic and optimism.

coca cola logo

The Pareto Principle, or the 80/20 Rule

The Pareto Principle states that just 20% of the work done is responsible for 80% of the results achieved. While the principle holds true in general life, it has specific uses in designing experiences as well.

When it comes to user experience design, the 80/20 rule urges you to focus on the 20% of the part needing improvement that will impact 80% of the experience. You can design your products to elicit specific responses and actions from your users. Identify the precise requirements of your design that will maximize the results. Focus on minimal efforts that will bring in the majority results.


User experience design is all about designing for your business’s users. This makes it imperative to consider your user’s psychology and behavior while designing the experience. Knowledge of user psychology principles is an asset that every UX designer must possess in order to design great experiences.


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