I came across an amazing book on psychology and design that I think every creative person needs to read – 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People by Susan M.Weinschenk.
Let me unveil some of the mysteries of human perception described here since they can be very handy when designing virtually anything.
1. People use peripheral vision more that central one to understand the gist of the scene
The new research shows that peripheral vision is an evolutionary tool that has been helping humans survive since the tough hunting times. People can still make sense of the picture that is missing the central part but fail to understand the context if the peripheral parts of the image are missing.
Takeaways from this?
– “People use peripheral vision when they look at the computer screen, and usually decide what a page is about based on a quick glimpse of what is in their peripheral vision”;
– “If you want users to concentrate on a certain part of the screen, don’t put animation or blinking elements in their peripheral vision”.
2. People identify objects by recognizing patterns
Research suggests that people recognize basic geometric shapes (geometric icons, or geons) and use these shapes to identify objects.
– “Use patterns as much as possible, since people will automatically be looking for them. Use grouping and white space to create patterns”;
– “Favor 2D elements over 3D ones. The eyes communicate what they see to the brain as a 2D object. 3D representations on the screen may actually slow down recognition and comprehension”.
3. 9% of men and 0.5% of women are color-blind
And that means that if you make a design that involves red, green or blue colors, an average one out of ten of your customers won’t enjoy the beauty of it (assuming you are not designing for women only).
– “Check your images and Web sites with www.vischeck.com or colorfilter.wickline.org to see how they will look to someone who is color-blind”;
– When designing color coding, consider colors that work for everyone, for example, varying shades of brown and yellow. Avoid red, green, and blue”.
4. People remember only 4 items at once
Research by Nelson Cowan (2001) shows that our working memory can hold up to four things at once – taken that we are not distracted, of course. The four-item rule also applies to long-term memory – we better categorize and retrieve from memory if there are 1 to 4 items in each category.
– Try to limit any presented information to four items, and if you can’t, try to group and chunk the information;
– Include no more than four items in each chunk.
5. Danger, food, sex, movement, faces, and stories get the most attention
We might think that we absorb the new information using our rational brain but in fact we don’t – we use our old, “reptilian” brain. Unlike the new brain (conscious, reasoning) and the mid-brain (processing emotions), it is interested purely in our survival. “Can I eat it?”, “Is it safe for me?”, “Can I have sex with it?” Therefore, to get the point across, use stuff that will tickle this “reptilian” brain.
– Use anything that moves as much as possible (put videos on your Website, for example);
– Use pictures of human faces that are looking directly at the viewer, close-ups are best;
– “Use stories as much as you can, even for what you think is factual information”;
– Pictures of food, sex, or danger – when appropriate.
6. People are motivated by progress, mastery, and control
People like to know that whatever they are doing brings them closer to completion and helps them master new skills. It gives them a sense of control. Think MailChimp with their step-by step guidance on how to create an email campaign, or Lynda.com course progress indicators.
– “Look for the ways to help people set goals and track them”;
– “Show people how they’re progressing towards goals”;
– “If you want to build loyalty and have repeat customers, you’ll need to have activities that people inherently want to do (such as connecting with their friends, or mastering something new), rather than just activities for which people are getting paid”.