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Cognitive Psychology in UX – 5 Ways to Perfect your Design

Cognitive Psychology in UX design
Read time: 6 min.

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Whether you’re in the business of outsourcing your graphic or web design skills to would-be clients or find yourself in the position of creating your own website or eCommerce storefront, there is an argument to be made about the User Experience (UX) factor in that equation. UX design trends have made the task of designing an accessible, inviting and usable environment harder than before given the reliance on customer psychology and specifics wants and needs.

According to Finances Online, 48% of users see proper web design as a sign of a business’ credibility, with 94% of them stating that bad web design is the sole reason for their distrust and abandonment of newly-visited websites. Additionally, statistics published by Top Tal indicate that 88% of online customers are unlikely to return to a website after a bad UX, with mobile users being 5 times more likely to abandon websites if they lack responsive design optimization.

These shifts in audience expectations indicate a more drastic need for reliance on cognitive psychology solutions in UX research and design for online platforms regardless of the industry they belong to. With that, let’s take a look at some of the most intuitive and practical ways in which you can improve your project’s UX design and bring it that much closer to excellence in your stakeholders’ eyes.

The Advantages of Relying on Cognitive Psychology in UX Design

Image Source: Pexels

Before we go further, it’s worth pointing toward cognitive psychology and why it matters in relation to UX design. According to Simply Psychology, cognitive psychology represents a field which bases its research on the exploration of the human mind – mainly, it’s perception, attention, language, memory and thinking to name a few. This makes its use in UX design highly desirable since it allows the designer to effectively map a user’s journey from a landing page, to the product page, all the way to the checkout in a seamless and cohesive experience.

Jason Mitchel, UX Content Writing Specialist at WowGrade had this to say on the subject: “Implementing tried-and-tested psychological principles in your web or graphic design project is a sure-fire way for it to achieve its desired effect. In doing so, both novices and established professionals have access to a repertoire of reliable techniques to rely on regardless of the project’s requirements or complexity.”

Given that cognitive psychology has a well-established presence in the design industry (both printed and digital); there are a few essential outcomes which we can safely point to as results of its presence in UX design:

  • Higher website traffic and lower bounce rates
  • Better user retention, recurrent spending and brand advocacy
  • Streamlined content production and reduced website maintenance costs

1. Define your Visual Style Guide in Pre-Production

The human eye is trained to spot and memorize color patterns – we all do it subconsciously every time we walk down the street. Just as the color green means “OK” and color red means “not OK”, your design project’s color palette and visuals should follow an internal, hard-coded logic. You can outline your visual style guide by introducing a strict selection of colors, shapes for navigation, as well as brand elements such as logo and logotype.

Whether you work on the project alone or with a team of designers, everyone should have access to the official style guide for your project before any meaningful progress is made on the website. This will ensure that visitors have a much cleaner and more intuitive UX design to look forward to, which will, in turn, play into their psychology and allow cognition to do its trick – make your site appealing to the eye.

2. Engage the Reader with Meaningful Calls to Action

Calls to action offer a unique way to map out your project’s UX design in a way which will lead the reader from one page to another with an invisible hand. Simply presenting your visitors with passive, inert content can come off as dull and uninviting, often causing the most lucrative stakeholders to look for products or services elsewhere.

Calls such as “check out this article for more” or “drop by our online store now” can do wonders for your website psychological appeal. Avoid cheap sales tricks such as exclamation points, capitalized lettering and subtle guilt trips toward your audience and the cognitive appeal of your UX design will work wonders for your site’s bottom line.

3. Direct your Reader’s View with Short-Form Content

It’s only natural that you would wish to present your visitors with as much meaningful content as possible once they arrive. However, this approach can backfire and cause the visitor to abandon your website for the simple reason of feeling overwhelmed with the content at hand. To avoid this, you should opt on short-form content akin to Medium and their reliance on small snippets which tease the content contained within each internal page. This will play into your audiences’ psychology in a way which will draw them to explore your website further without the initial shock of too much content at once.

Presenting your readers with short-form content rather than long-form will speak volumes of your respect for their time with your website. Writing short, informative and actionable content will not only seem more inviting and sharable but also allow non-native speakers to enjoy it to its fullest.

4. Personalize your Content to Make it Inclusive

While your style guide, white space and visual design quality will play into your brand’s public perception, it’s the website content that really matters at the end of the day. As such, personalizing your content to include pronouns, inclusive wording and collective thinking should become a priority.

This will help attract a variety of demographics to your website, from students and millennials to the elderly and stay-at-home parents, due to its wider psychological appeal. “Even if your website is primarily dedicated toward B2B networking or eCommerce, personalization elements such as a chatbot equipped with a persona, or a brand mascot, can find their way into your UX design to elevate its effectiveness in terms of cognitive psychology”, says Estelle Liotard, content marketing expert and senior writer at GrabMyEssay.

5. Avoid Dark Pattern Design Choices

When presented with a blue button and a red button, we will instinctively choose the blue-button more times than not – regardless of what the writing on the buttons might say. The adherence to colour psychology in a negative manner in UX design has been classified as a dark pattern, or an overreliance on psychological triggers. Featuring dark patterns in your UX is highly discouraged for a number of reasons, including the potential loss of trust and brand reputation in the eyes of your stakeholders.

Simon Reese, Head of UX Research at BestEssayEducation had this to say on the subject of dark patterns: “Whether you’re only just starting your online business or have an established audience waiting to interact with your storefront, you should strive to be as transparent and forthcoming as possible in your UX design choices. Once users realize that there are hidden, obscured, coloured and otherwise masked conversion or subscription elements around your website, they will quickly leave in search of more approachable platforms.”

An Ongoing Effort (Conclusion)

Once you’ve established your project’s UX design and are satisfied with its cognitive psychology effect on the visitors, it will be up to you to maintain its efficiency over time. Just as with content, topics and industry trends, UX design trends change over time and will require you to reevaluate your website in light of innovation.

Most importantly, however, don’t lose sight of the “why” behind cognitive psychology, as it represents a tool which can make your users’ journey more enjoyable and satisfactory – not to direct them into performing otherwise unwanted actions on their part.


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