Successful user experiences may rely more on psychology than design

A great user experience, or UX, be in internal or external, needs to really be felt as much as seen.

User experience (UX) has always been looked at as a design challenge -- get compelling graphical elements and navigation into an interface, then build meaningful interaction around it, and all is well.

Photo: HubSpot

That is only part of the picture, however. UX is probably 33% on-screen design, presentation and navigation, 33% interaction and engagement, and 33% psychology. Or perhaps, upon further thinking, the psychology aspect is an even big share of it -- maybe 50%, versus 25% for design and 25% for interaction/engagement.

After reading Spencer Lanoue's latest post on the psychology aspect of UX, it seems there's a deeper level of appeal to UX than we're willing to admit. Lanoue, digital marketer at UserTesting, suggests that adhering to some basic psychological principles can boost the odds of success of any user experience. While Lanoue's advice relates primarily to consumer-facing sites or services, these lessons can be applied to internal enterprise services as well. Enterprise end-users need to be "sold" on the efficacy and advantages of adopting particular services and applications. In an era in which IT departments are competing on some levels with outside cloud services, psychological factors may play a key role in adoption.

Reciprocate: "The principle of reciprocation tells us that if we do something for other people, they want to return the favor to us. If you give your users something useful before you ask them for anything, they're more likely to reciprocate by doing business with your company later on," Lanoue points out. Part of this reciprocation may mean giving away something for "free" in exchange for users engaging your application or service.

Social proof: Never underestimate the power of peer pressure, especially when it comes to encouraging traffic to or adoption of your service or application. Having a key influencer in the user community may help propel adoption.

Sense of scarcity: It's the psychology of commodization -- people value what seems to be of limited duration or volume. One way to do this in UX is to offer features for a limited amount of time, Lanoue suggests.

Framing: Provide comparisons or side-by-side contrasts. And remember, peoples' eyes always go to the upper-right-side corner of the screen first, so that should be the placement of the first element that forms the basis for comparison to other elements. Lanoue illustrates this with the menu of an upscale restaurant, which puts the most expensive meal in the upper right-hand corner (say, $130), then lists the less-pricier-meals ($30-$50) elsewhere. Patrons will first see the expensive item, so the rest of the menu will look like "bargains" in comparison.

Salience: This is where targeting audiences with specific messages or services comes into play. Offer features that are relevant to users' profiles or roles.

Contrast: Don't be afraid to employ colors or screen features that make important elements pop out at users, Lanoue advises. "The contrast principle tells us that people are more likely to remember what stands out from everything else around it."