Why Psychology is a Vital Tool for UX Designers

One of the most important aspects of the design thinking process is the designers’ ability to empathize with users of their products. Without the keen ability to understand the user’s emotions, desires, and concerns, it’s difficult for designers to be successful. As a result, psychology is a highly relevant, yet overlooked field that can be very helpful to UX/UI designers.

Psychologists inevitably make strong UX designers because they are already familiar with how people behave and make decisions. This skill enables them to pursue jobs in which they can use their understanding of others to improve products, either directly through design, or even user research. Another huge benefit for those who study psychology is that it gives them the power to empathize with others. This is something that not all technical employees possess, so having experience with psychology might make you a stronger candidate for tech companies. 

Psychology also plays a large role in making design decisions. Important information about human perception, biases, and emotions can help designers better understand how users might behave and react to their products. Several psychology principles that offer important insights that should be considered when making crucial design choices include priming, the Von Restorff effect, Serial Position effect, Gestalt Principles, cognitive load, Hick’s Law, Fitt’s Law, the Aesthetic Usability effect, Dual Coding Theory, Gut Checking, memory limitation, Mere Exposure effect, Psychology of Colors, Psychology of Persuasion, and Visceral Reactions. For instance, the Aesthetic Usability effect highlights how designs that are more visually appealing and attractive are perceived as more usable despite their actual capabilities. This principle reminds designers that when users enjoy a product’s overall appearance, they are more likely to overlook minor issues that might otherwise be noticeable. Similarly, the Psychology of Colors provides designers with valuable information regarding how different colors represent different things and elicit a variety of emotions. This information can be useful when designers are thinking about color schemes or when making other crucial decisions about their designs. The other principles and effects mentioned also offer further insights that designers should consider when designing. 

Another underrated aspect of the design process is user research. Psychologists tend to be highly observant and very detail-oriented, which are both beneficial traits to possess when conducting usability research and prototype testing. By noticing and understanding the small details, actions, and expressions of users as they interact with prototypes, designers can notice important information and potential problems they wouldn’t have been able to collect verbally or explicitly. Understanding human behaviors and emotions can also be beneficial when designers are trying to modify and improve those prototypes. The “why’s” and “how might we” questions that come up when reviewing ideas and mock-ups are vital to understand so that the product can improve and eventually succeed. 

As I mentioned earlier, empathy is a vital component of design thinking. Because UX is all about the user’s overall experience with the product, it’s important to view the design from their point of view. In order to improve the connection between the user and the technology, we have to immerse ourselves in the stakeholders’ situations in order to improve the UX and ensure that the user experiences positive emotions when interacting with the product. Studying psychology can greatly influence a person’s empathy for others, thus making it a largely advantageous topic to study on your journey towards UX. 

Ultimately, by studying human behavior and  social and cognitive neurological tendencies, UX designers and researchers are better equipped to tackle difficult steps in the design process and make smarter design decisions altogether. If you’re interested in Human-Centered Design, taking a psychology course in the future might be a good idea!