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Plan your UX using Behavioural Psychology



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On the walls of the Temple Apollo at Delphi, one can find the Memento Mori featuring the Greek motto: “Know thy user”. Designers in all the previous centuries forgot about the user and brought madness and chaos upon their products, but no more of this nonsense!’Cause weary travellers had written on the magic tablets the secrets of good design and communicated to us the term under which all the secrets unite and rejoice: UX.

I think that one major obstacle that slows down designers the most (especially in the UX department) is not having a clear, intuitive understanding of the user’s goals, motivations and underlying psyhcology. The goal of this article is to provide you with a simplified model of thinking about users when crafting your UX personas.

The Big Five Personality Traits (also known as FFM- Five Factors Model) is based on language descriptors of personality and encompasses five dimensions of behaviour:

· Extraversion

· Opennes to experience

· Agreeableness

· Conscietiousness

· Neuroticism

Understanding these traits is easy and could be easily applied to how a UX researcher conducts her endeavour. If you are really interested in the subject, check out the Wikipedia page or watch some videos by Doctor Jordan B. Peterson, who is a behavioural psychologist and works with this model. For our purpose as designers, besides simplifying this model with clear descriptions, it’s essential to understand the basic motivations of each trait:

Extraversion might mean positive emotions, energy, assertivness, domineering behaviour, attention seeking and talkativness .The goal of Extraversion is social success.

Opennes to experience means imagination, curiosity, open-mindness, prone to abstraction and creativity. The goal of Opennes is usually mental stimulation through novel ideas and exercising the creative muscle into brainstorming, the act of creation and self-actualization through euphoric experiences.

Conscietiousness means usefulness, self-discipline, reliability, duty and planning. The goal of Conscietiousness is achievement, fulfilment of duty and always having something to do.

Agreeableness means compassion, cooperation and tendency to help and nurture others. The goals of Agreeableness are cooperative structures of people transformed usually in relationships.

Neuroticism is the tendency to experience unpleasent emotions, sensitivity and nervousness. Its goals are security and stability.

Of course, you could reffer to every one’s opposite as being low on the trait’s scale (for example, low on Neuroticism is emotional stability, low on Extraversion is Introversion).

Summing up the goals of every trait is overly-simplified, but it helps you craft UX on two major dimensions:

a)how the app/site/soft you are designing is going to help the ideal user achieve his/her goals and

b)how the app/site/soft you are designing will be perceived and talked about by the ideal users

Of course, in order to talk about models like this, we need to get a bunch of things straight:

a)this, by no means, is something that is necessary to your design. In my opinion, it is easier to implement and think about and can help you craft your research in a more personal manner regarding to the user.

b)you wil not build an application for every type of temperament. Everyone wasn’t , isn’t , and will never be your ideal user because there are major temperament differences between people and designing for everyone is the clearest path to major failure.

Now let’s evaluate how the two dimensions I had previously talked about intertwine with the personality traits.

One major step in crafting your UX persona is writing down its goals, because one of your duties as a designer is making the user’s goal as accessible and easy to achieve as possible. For example, your ideal user’s goal is to learn Front-End Development, and you provide a free ebook about this on your blog. Then you make the Download my free ebook button on the blog visible, easy to access and a part of the user’s eye movement pattern.

Learning Front-End Development is, however, an ambiguous goal because it doesn’t specify why the user wants to learn. So the next step you can take is sharing a bunch of FFM qustions mixed with personal questions to find out the dominant trait between your users. Now let’s say that the ideal user wants to learn Front End Development because he is in a tech college and becoming very good at it means social success (both in college and real life), hence, Extraversion is a higher trait.

To supplement the ideal user’s ambition, you don’t just make the free ebook accessible, but you take your design on a more specific level: your images on the website are with someone leading a team of developers (appeal to social success), your social media links are well defined (appeal to social proof) and you also provide external resources (appeal to more opportunities towards success).

So the path goes like this: understand ideal user’s goals -> understand the why -> make correlations with behavioural psychology traits after research-> design accordingly.

With this approach, you make sure your users will come back.

On the other dimension (perception and reccomandation), we can think about how to assure the ideal user that sharing our designs to like-minded people is an idea that appeals to his/her goals. Extraverted people who want social success attract extraverted people who want social success. Neurotic peple who want security attract neurotic people who want security. They form communities and share useful resources with one another.

That’s why it’s so important to appeal to the desired traits. Apps like Instagram, Pinterest, Behance and Medium appeal to high Opennes. Apps like Meetup appeal to high Extraversion. Apps like Pocket, Evernote and ToDo lists appeal to high Conscietiousness. So when you design apps like these, don’t make fatal mistakes like making todo lists generate new content and distracting interactions. If your user desires security and you design a shop, make sure that the interface is easy to interact with and that the information about a product is ridiculously easy to access.

Subtle things like these might seem tedious to think about, but it’s essential to make them because they will assure the user it’s a good idea to recommend it to his/her community, and this should be a pillar of your marketing strategy.

Using behavioural psychology in UX is an interesting idea that I am still developing. In this article I tried to make things simple and intuitive (since my guess is that the majority of designers are high in Opennes and they like abstractions, comparisons and the opportunity to make new intuitive connections). Let me know in the comments if you want me to expand the subject in another articles.

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