Understanding Human Behaviors: A Must for UX/UI Designers

With more than 7 billion people on earth, it’s easy to assume that we know or understand how different humans relate across different strata.

Fair enough, experienced designers may have one or two ideas on how an average human mind is expected to respond to design outcomes. But one thing I’ve come to learn from designing beautiful, interactive interfaces since the past couple of years is assumption has never been the true validation of great project outcomes.

Let’s double back a bit.

We can probably trace human-centric designs far back to the 1990s when its early adoption began. At the onset, the foundational architecture upon which UX/UI relies was more conveyed in set principles and standards. From typography to alignment, kerning, user journey map, wireframing to prototyping and the list goes on. Despite set standards, here’s what we’ve found.

In the present UX/UI world, hundreds of designers even after following design principles to the letter often falter due to negligence.

Where the chaos stems…

There’s a lot of elements that downplay the need to deeply understand human behaviour during design thinking. To restate the obvious we often forget, this is the 21st century. And the undertone to this fact is, whatever appealed to humans in the age of ice and stone isn’t definitely what makes them tick in this era. No need to debate that.

So today, we begin with the very basic question upon which the human foundation is nested.

“What makes humans human?”

Perhaps, we should get more direct.

“What makes YOU human?”

If you ruminate long and hard enough, you’d realise that what makes you human isn’t your body structure or features — you may have shiny hairs, structured jaws, classy cheekbones, white teeth, healthy gums, long legs, straight back, broad shoulders, and so on. All these are nice perks, but you’re so much more than your physical attributes.

What makes us humans is a function of those things that seem intangible, yet define our own very existence. It ranges from how we feel, the emotions we experience, to the needs we long to satisfy, the connection we yearn to make, etc. This very same function applies when designing for humans.

You may not want to hear it, but inter-relating and interfacing with your end-users are mostly dependent on your understanding of their behavior, feelings and needs, not necessarily your technical expertise. It’s less of “I know the perfect features to fix in” and more of “What will they think and how will the user feel when using this feature”. Today, we’d be dissecting human behavior, delving into how you can balance your human-centric vs design-centric minds to avoid designing a product that only frustrates and ultimately scare away users (which could, in turn, end your career). 

Without further ado, let’s get dig in.

#1 Behaviour — Humans read by scanning (speaking of impatience)

Illustration by Uran

A research once conducted by NNGroup on how people read web pages revealed some shocking stats. First, 79% of people only scanned any new pages they came across, leaving only 16% to read through each word.

An updated research by the group showed a more brutal fact. Email newsletters are more hurriedly read through than even web pages. There is no gainsaying in the fact that understanding the average web reader’s style gives you an edge in developing and placing your ‘hook’.

I’d elaborate on this. As a designer, once you understand that the average user spends less than a minute on your webpage (some could go as low as 15 seconds) it becomes imperative you do one of two things:

  1. Excellently position what’s most important so they do not miss it while being impatient, or
  2. Deliver such an excellent design process with the ability to capture and hold their first 5 seconds, that’s so irresistible and only makes them long for more of what your web page has to offer.

Below are actionable steps that will not only help your design process achieve its goal but help your users know what’s relevant to them and catch their attention quickly:

Actionable steps:

  • Adopt the Grouping Approach: One best way to ease into the scanning ability is ensure that things that are related logically are related visually — Group related contents accordingly e.g. newspaper
  • Use plenty of headings — For efficient design process, we really can not over stress the importance of creating hierarchies. Your headings, sub headings, are very essential to capture and hold the attention of users. They tell what each section is all about or if relevant to the reader. Use them as much as you can. But be dynamic about it.
  • Never forget to K.I.S.S. (Keep It Short and Simple): short paragraphs and texts are not only easy on the eyes, but also make reading purely simple and easy. In contrast, long paragraphs make it harder for readers to keep track, and as such, easily lose interest. They are also harder to scan than a series of short paragraphs. You probably have heard that simple is the new sophistication. Do not forget to adopt a legible typography in your process of simplification.
  • Got bullets? Use them well: if we said adopting bulleted lists is the new order of the day, we wouldn’t be mistaken. In modern designs, almost anything can be a bullet list. Do you have a sentence that separates many things with a comma? Then it can be a bullet list.

The solution to avoid the essence of your design flow being defeated by users’ scanning is to create effective visual hierarchies. Note,

You might not necessarily be able to stop your users from scanning though your web pages, but you might be able to keep them scanning for as long as possible. The longer they stay, the higher chances they have to take specific actions you’ve created for them.

Moving on to the next point. Let’s call it “Stranger Things”.

#2. Behaviour — Humans find change strange (speaking of slow adaptability)

Illustration by Roberlan Borges

Cliche as this sounds,

Designers are strange creatures who try to design strange things for strange people who resist change.

How strange is that?

There’s a painful fact peculiar to humans we’ve got to accept. People find it difficult to accept changes or adapt to one. Rare cases are when such changes are the only option or are enforced on the people.

Recall when material design came alive? The pioneers realised that this is going out to strangers, so they defined a universally acceptable set of design principles that guide the creation of every other product. This is why across all mobile phones, no matter the brand, the wheels icon always takes you to the settings, and the hamburger icon takes you to the menu, the green button accepts a call, the red ends it, and so on.

The case shouldn’t be different when it comes to user experience and user interface designs. There’s already a set of governing laws that users across all strata easily resonate with. So, dear strange creatures, when you’re trying to design for strangers, could you kindly tune low on building strange things or attempting to change the status quo?

Change is good, however, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. But you can always improve on them. Follow UX laws to guide your decisions and principles as well as point you in the right direction that improves overall usability.

See some actionable approach below:

Actionable steps:

  • Use design systems — this ensures consistency throughout an application which makes users learn, adapt and get familiar with various components and elements fast
  • Follow what works — just like remixing a song, you don’t necessarily have to bring in something utterly new. It’s very risky. For example, there is a reason why most mobile apps have the navigation tab at the bottom of the screen as it is the closest to the thumbs which 89.9% of users interact with considering the way humans hold their phones.

Good artists copy, great artists steal. Nothing is new. So find a void and fill. Saves time and prevents users from feeling alienated.

Moving on…

#3. Behaviour — Humans Don’t read Instructions (A-ha! They easily assume)

Illustration by Lorena G

Humans do not read or appreciate instructions, especially when they are super long. You remember that same feeling you get when you’re prompted to read Terms and Conditions of a website?

Everyone feels the same way.

Bearing this in mind, you have to make the effort to ensure that your design flow is as clear and as obvious as possible. You wouldn’t want your users to care less about your content just the way they do with the instruction manuals on a new electronic device, would you?

This is why, when it comes to giving instructions, you’d have to make it straightforward. Beating about the bush or using verbose words will do you no good. Rather, make the design content precise and ensure it leads the user to the overall goal, relevant links or the needed CTA button. Remember, you’re wrestling against time and space, you got to combine both wisely.

But what about cases where reading long instructions is really imperative? Well, in such cases, you should try tweaking the “how”. We can also call it, remodelling the “instruction delivery process”.

One way to go is making the instructions graphic-based where and when it could be — Images have been proven as a strong attention-grabbing element, and they say a lot more than words. That’s why manuals in electronic devices maximise the use of graphical illustrations.

And a good way to represent instructions in mobile app design is through the onboarding screens.

Make it self explanatory

#4 Behaviour — Humans are Emotional by Nature

We’ve probably stated this a million times, but it’s good to reiterate matters of equal import. Human beings have that emotional aspect which is what truly defines them (just as we hinted a while ago).

Overtime, there exists the belief that human behaviour hinges on six basic emotions of happiness, sadness, fear, anger, surprise and disgust. This is why colour psychology in UX/UI design tries so well to interrelate and justify how human emotions tie to different colour use.

As a designer, there’s a clarion call to make to understand your users’ emotions.

From showing empathy, to adding personality to your designs, emotions help to generate better interaction with your product or website users. And beyond ensuring a pretty relatable website, emotion helps to balance the overall feel. Users want to be treated as humans and not as ‘website visitors’. The thin line between that and what balances this desire is an empathy-design direction.

As a professional designer, below’s how understanding human emotions gives you an edge and a very good head start:

A. Creating personal experience for the user — when users believe an experience is personalised for them, they tend to get more inter-woven with products.

B. Add personality to a brand — despite that it’s the computer age, humans still want to interact with fellow humans and be treated as such across the board. Putting their emotions in your thought process while creating design interactions help to build personality, which creates rapport between your product and user.

C. A show of empathy — Understanding the user’s feelings and relating with them goes a long way in achieving your overall design objectives when aptly communicated through your design process. Since humans are totally emotional, certain colours help to depict certain emotions and establish empathy. For instance, to convey an exciting message, yellow does a pretty good job, while to depict elegance and peace, a blend of white and purple could be the play.

D. Increase user engagement and reduce bounce rate — it’s been proven that humans, when engrossed emotionally, spend more time interacting than otherwise. Indeed, emotional attachments go a long way to capture and detain the attention of users for as long as possible. On the technical note, your engagement skyrockets, leaving you with an impressively low bounce rate.‍

To truly relate heart to heart with humans, who become your users, emotions are your best elements. They portray you as being truly caring and most importantly, leave a lasting memory of you or your work on the user.

This article was first posted at Muzli

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Creative Entrepreneurshttps://creattiv.net
My name is Reza Barauntu. I am passionate about entrepreneurship, technology, web design, art, and music. I design and develop experiences that make people's lives simpler. Follow Creative Entrepreneur on Instagram @founders.guides
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