Understanding the Nuances of User Psychology

Simply put, users have some basic psychological requirements you’ll need to understand if you want to create a design that truly connects.

Snap Judgments

Users make snap judgments about your site, especially when they visit it for the first time. When designing around snap judgments, you’ll need to focus on two types of users—flirters and information-gatherers. Here are the rules:

  • Users cannot and will not expend much energy trying to find information or figure out your unique value proposition. To combat this, you must remove all visual clutter and get directly to the point in a clear and concise manner.
  • New visitors—especially those from search engines—will not read your content first; they’ll scan it to see if it looks applicable to them. To engage these users, you should focus on using highly scannable elements in your design.

Analysis Paralysis

Due to the cognitive limitations of the prefrontal cortex, your users are unable to make a decision when presented with too many options. This is known as analysis paralysis:

Being presented with more choices, even good ones, can hinder effective action. In one study, doctors couldn’t make a decision when a second promising drug showed up.

~ Fast Company, November 2007

From a design perspective, this insight is huge because it affects so many critical elements of your site.

Analysis paralysis is one of the biggest design constraints, and indeed, it is the single most important factor when constructing your site’s navigation.

Next: The Two Golden Rules of Web Page Design »