Design Psychology: 10 Concepts For Every UX Designer

March 15, 2022

There’s more to user experience design than just creating elegant and aesthetically pleasing projects. Some people may think that artistry is all there is to UX designing.

The thin line that separates a good user experience from a bad one is how on-point a designer helps a user think through the experience. Simply put, psychology is involved. A designer should seamlessly convey the full thought of the project to the user.

By understanding concepts in design psychology, a UX designer can create a smooth and intuitive experience, giving users an efficient, usable, and pleasurable experience when interacting with the project.

Using these concepts, you will be able to direct human behavior and elicit specified actions and responses from the users.

In this post, we’ll cover 10 of the most important design psychology concepts that help guide decisions in designing a project. By the end of this post, you’ll be equipped with the knowledge not just of how to make a design aesthetically pleasing but more importantly, functional.

Gestalt Principles Of Visual Perception

Gestalt’s principles in design psychology explain the way humans perceive visual elements. It describes that the human eye subconsciously relates objects and views them as a whole rather than as separate elements. Incongruities and gaps are overlooked.

There are six major Gestalt Principles of Visual Perception, and they are:

Symmetry And Order

The human eye finds symmetry attractive. When looking at objects, we naturally see them as balanced shapes that form around the middles. Two of the best examples of this are the logos of McDonald’s and Twine, a web design freelance marketplace.



When simple shapes or elements are closely arranged together, they are perceived as a group resulting in a more complex image. Take the Adidas logo as an example. When the three lines are further away and placed at random, they’re automatically viewed as separate elements. But with the way the three lines are arranged, you’ll immediately perceive them as one image.

This doesn’t work with similar multiple shapes. Even random elements, when arranged in a certain proximity, are automatically viewed as one complex image, just like the Unilever logo.



The human eye builds a relationship for the same elements in a design regardless of proximity. It can be viewed as a group through colors, sizes, and shapes.


Gestalt’s continuity principle states that the human eye is inclined to follow lines, paths, or curves of a design. Curved lines, for example, compels the eye to move from one object to another or a line moves the eye from point A to point B.

Examples of this are the dominant H in the logo of High Desert Pure, a eCommerce site for hemp lotions and the infinite looking symbol in the logo of a Houston drug rehab facility called Infinite Recovery.

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The closure principle explains that the human brain tries to perceive incomplete objects as a whole by filling the gaps with the missing information. Take the IBM logo, for example, instead of seeing the whole blocks of each letter, the white parts tend to be perceived as the areas with missing information and so are filled up by the brain with blue shapes to make it legible.


Figure And Ground

This principle shows that the human eye will isolate an object or element from its surrounding area or background.

Hick’s Law

Hick’s Law explains that users take more time to decide on any target action you want them to make as you increase the complexity or number of their choices. Simply, the more options are presented to them, the longer they click on a call-to-action button or a buy button.

If there are 43 products to choose from. Imagine how much faster a user would choose if he is only presented with 10-15 options.

In design psychology, if you want users to have a smooth and efficient experience with your design, try to determine which elements are necessary and what you can do without. Don’t present them everything at once.

Limit their options but not to the point where they feel you aren’t giving them enough selection to choose from or too constrictive. But reduce the number of options you present them just enough to accomplish their goal.

This means prior user research and testing must be thoroughly done to pinpoint the most important features you want to include. This can also mean hiding secondary features in dropdown buttons.

So how do you apply Hick’s Law?

1) Remove unnecessary images, links, buttons, and text to allow users to find what they need as quickly as possible. The fewer distractions, the better.

2) As touched earlier, rather than providing all the options at once, you can provide broad categories in the navigation where you insert subcategories for more options when necessary.

3) Shorten lists Limit the number of options like what was suggested in the preceding point. But if that’s not possible and the product requires long lists, limit the number of choices that can be viewed at a single time. This way, scanning them is faster and easier. You can choose to prioritize recommended options on the list.

4) Break down complex processes like checkouts and registrations on several pages. Nothing is too overwhelming than seeing a whole page full of form fields to fill up just like what this growth hacking website form did. Simplify the steps to make them more manageable and provide a clear path to shorten navigation time.

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As for registration forms and checkout processes, you can brainstorm with the developer you’ll hire

Dual Coding Theory

The Dual Coding theory was introduced by psychology professor Allan Paivio. This psychology design concept will make it easier for users to remember important points from your website.

Paivio promotes giving equal weight to non-verbal and verbal processes. The theory suggests that human memory has two different but interconnected systems. The relationship between these two processes supposedly affects learning and memory.

He was basically saying that you create visual versions of words in your mind based on your perception and experiences. Think of the word “sea” for example and you’ll automatically connect it to water.

Relating an image to a word makes for an easy recall. You’ll mostly see this in children’s books, not just to make it more appealing but to help children remember concepts easier by seeing an image they can relate the word or story to.

With a visual representation of a word, especially with complex ones, you’ll allow the user to get the idea faster and imprint it into their memory.

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How do you apply this in your projects? You can do this by utilizing icons and simplifying text content into infographics when applicable. You can also incorporate images in your logo making it easier to remember.

UX designers keep giving layout and design relatively equal consideration. Users should be able to remember the app or website easily and navigate it with ease.

Visceral Reactions

Ever visited a website or used an app that left you impressed enough to not want to leave? That’s a visceral reaction. This concept is an instinctive response to an experience with a product sent by chemical messengers to the brain. A reaction is then generated that makes users come back for more.

A visceral reaction is an important concept to keep in mind. It usually only takes a split second for users to decide if they’d want to explore your project more or if they should bounce right off.

If they come into the site and find the layout boring or even overwhelming, they’ll leave in a few seconds.

Creating your project in a way that elicits a visceral reaction will help you get loyal users and supporters. In turn, it’ll help you get a better brand image for your website or an app, making more and more people interested in visiting or downloading it.

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Keep in mind that a visceral reaction isn’t just produced with an out-of-this-world project design. Having simple design elements in icons, colors, forms, and imagery like what these cloud bookkeeping services did in their website will also get you the wow factor from users.

Why? Because users are comfortable with things they can relate to. So while you give your users a unique experience, there should still be an underlying familiarity they could relate to.

Von-Restorff Effect

This design psychology concept is coined by Hedwig von Restorff, a German psychiatrist. Restorff did an experiment where he presented participants with a list of items with one distinct from the others. The one that stood out was the most remembered.

This concept is also known as the Isolation Effect. It predicts that in a range of similar objects, the odd one out is most likely to be remembered.

A classic case where this concept can be applied is when designing call-to-action buttons. This button dictates what you want the user to do like what this customer success software did. When it pops out – easily distinguishable from the rest, the more likely it is for the user to take action.

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Another where this can be used is in an array of products on the page. Making the new arrivals or the best sellers a bit distinct from the rest will move the user to check them out instead of the others.

You can use this concept to direct users to the specific types of products you want to sell most.

Psychology Of Persuasion

The Psychology of Persuasion of Robert Cialdini has five sub-concepts: Reciprocity, Consistency, Social Proofing, Authority, and Scarcity. This set of concepts dictates the way humans behave and can be capitalized on to identify the general human behavior to improve the success of your project.


This principle explains that humans don’t like to be indebted to others. If you offer something of value, they’ll feel obligated to return the favor one way or another.

An example of this is offering free cheat sheets, guides, free content or free trials like what this employee productivity tool offers. Website and app owners usually use these freebies in return for the user’s email address.


People rely on who they consider as experts in a certain field. The more authoritative the figure is, the more credible and believable everything he says is. This credibility also trickles down to his network. A human can reason: if this credible person A trusts person B, he must have some rational reason for trusting and so I can trust person B as well.

When we think of authoritative figures, we think of lawyers, engineers, doctors, and high-status professions that add a title to people’s names. But in the digital world, high authority figures include digital marketing professionals who bring in more revenue for a business.

If an email design system provides proof they’ve worked with reputable organizations, he’ll be considered as an expert in the field. Getting associated with these kinds of people and their organizations will make your project trustworthy as well.

Say if you get in touch with Neil Patel and you do a project together and showcase that in your website or app, people will trust you more easily and your user circle will increase.


Have you ever heard of FOMO or “fear of missing out”? Yes, people generally don’t want to miss out on things and this is why most websites capitalize on this concept to generate higher conversions.

By making people feel that a valuable thing is limited in number or offered in a limited time only, they’ll be more inclined to decisively take action fast.

You’ll usually see this in eCommerce sites with countdown timers on discounts of certain items or products with a tag of “last 5 items available”. When trying to capture the email addresses of users, certain content is gated so only those who sign up will be able to take full advantage of it.


This concept explains that people want to be consistent in their decision-making process. If you let users answer a short survey on their preferences and after getting the answers you make your offers customized to what they want, they’ll be more likely to take action.

Social Proofing

Even if users don’t know most people on the internet, when a certain stranger gives a testimonial about a product and it’s consistent with other people’s thoughts about the product, they’ll trust it more.

People tend to look for validation, not from salesmen but previous owners, experts, and celebrities. When your product includes a good review from a sizable number of people, it’ll make it easy for new users to trust it. A great example of this is how Axonify, a frontline training platform included the reviews they got from 3rd-party sites like G2 for site visitors to see how others perceive the platform.

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Memory Limitation

Memory is malleable and suggestive. It can create false memories where they either remember events that didn’t happen or remember them in another way.

Because of this, the memory limitation concept suggests that it’s important to create designs based on mental models or the brain’s habits. This way, processes are easier to remember.

This also entails making the user experience based on recognition more than just on recall. People don’t remember every page they visit in your website or app, in around 15 seconds, they’ll only remember 4 items at most.

So when designing a website or an app project, don’t leave users guessing about what a certain action does or what they’re expected to do next. Assist them and provide an undo option in applicable areas. This will reduce user frustration and incline them to come back.

Psychology Of Colors

Different colors evoke different emotions and this, in turn, evokes different thoughts. Hence, this is a common concept used by businesses for brand recognition based on the purpose of the design and its target audience.

Colors also make elements look pleasing. The more attractive a product is, the more usable it is in people’s minds. Now let’s consider briefly what some colors convey.

Blue: honest, strong, loyal, calm, secure

Financial institutions and information-rich websites use blue to convey security and trustworthiness, hence the reason why Visa uses it.

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Red: action, passion, energy, boldness

Red stimulates energy and action, the reason why Red Bull mainly uses this color.


Orange: happiness, enthusiasm, sociable

Vidizmo wants to convey happiness and enthusiasm as a video-sharing platform so orange is made dominant in their branding.

Yellow: playful, confident, logical, forward-thinking

Yellow triggers logic and confidence, a characteristic a logistic company like DHL wants to convey.


Green: fresh, organic, growth, stability

Green easily conveys growth and stability hence the reason why PayStubNow, an online paystub generator.

Videomaker portrays itself as an authority with a touch of sophistication in the video making and camera rigs industry explaining the heavy use of black in their website.

Progressive Disclosure

Complex features tend to be overwhelming, this is a recurring human behavior mentioned throughout this post. For a great user experience, people should be presented with bite-sized chunks of information.

This is the reason why blogs aren’t just a wall of text. It’s broken up into bite-sized pieces using bullets, images, and videos just like what this predictive dialer blog and this Shopify Partner Program blog did to avoid readers from getting overwhelmed with what they’re supposed to read.

Fitts’s Law

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This law proposes that the time needed for a pointer like a mouse cursor to move to a target area is a function of the distance of the target object over the size of that object. Simply, the smaller the size of the object, the longer it takes to move a cursor toward it.

This concept is important since it affects how a user behaves on a desired action and in turn, affects conversions. This means a button for the desired action should be big enough that it’s easy to move around and click it and an undesired action like the delete or exit button should be smaller and placed farther from where the mouse usually sits.

A great example of this is the upper fold of an Austin drug rehab website where the “Get Help Now” button is conspicuous enough to be easily clicked on.

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These are just 10 of the most important concepts to consider. There are more as you delve deeper into this field. For now, mastering these concepts will help you create effective designs that will lead users to the emotions you want them to feel and the actions you want them to take.

Author Bio

Burkhard Berger is the founder of Novum™. You can follow him on his journey from 0 to 100,000 monthly visitors on His articles include some of the best growth hacking strategies and digital scaling tactics that he has learned from his own successes and failures.

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