Applying Design Psychology to Your Next Tech Project

October 17, 2016

While technical functionality is of course paramount when it comes to producing a mobile app or website, physical design also plays a key component in determining the success of your latest project. From colours, shapes and lines to fonts, texts and graphics, the design of your digital product can either magnetise consumers or repel them. Here are a few core psychological principles that can help you pair science with creativity in order to hone in on best design practices.

Mental models (aka design based on the user’s intuition): If you’ve ever heard computer scientists or UX designers chat about mental models, you may have instantly switched off from the conversation, dismissing the topic as too technical. In reality, the idea of mental models is a fairly simple concept to wrap your head around. Basically, it focuses on intuition – it is the process of mapping out what a user already understands in the physical world, and replicating those experiences in the virtual world. This can be as basic as one’s eyesight intuitively moving from left to right and top to bottom.

The Von Restorff Effect (aka the odd one out gets noticed): Quite simply, this is the employment of bold design to attract the user’s eye. For instance, you might choose a soft colour palette for the majority of your app or website, then break things up with a bright orange call-to-action. It’s straightforward, yet highly effective in creating strong visual cues and directing your user’s attention to the most important sections of the page.

Dual-coding theory (aka the idea that information is best delivered via visual and verbal cues): You know what they say: a picture says a thousand words. However, dual-coding theory dictates that using both text and imagery is the most efficient way to get the brain to digest and recall ideas faster. Overall, it boils down to the fact that you are enabling both mediums of information to bounce off one another in order to elicit the best results possible.

The psychology of colour: Everyone knows that humans intuitively associate different colours with different thoughts and feelings, making them a powerful vehicle for your brand’s overall identity. If you want to brush up on your knowledge, here are a few handy reminders about the different moods colours evoke:

  • Blue = trustworthy, honest, secure, calm
  • Red = exciting, dynamic, energetic, bold
  • Orange = sociable, happy, friendly, affordable
  • Yellow = optimistic, logical, confident, playful
  • Purple = creative, nostalgic, imaginative
  • Green = organic, fresh, natural, growth
  • Black = sophisticated, seductive, authoritative, formal
  • Multi-colour = multi-channel, boundless, positive

The psychology of shapes: Similarly, shapes can have a powerful effect on the different emotions and characteristics evoked by a brand. Studies have shown that generally-speaking, humans connect the following shapes with the following traits:

  • Circles, ovals and ellipses = relationships, friendship, unity, femininity
  • Squares and triangles = stability, efficiency, professionalism, masculinity
  • Vertical lines = strength, aggression, masculinity
  • Horizontal lines = tranquillity, calmness, community

Just as a visual artist carefully considers a project before slapping paint on the canvas, it is important that you employ a few tactical strategies when formulating the design of your next mobile app or website.