Junior UX Crunch: Cognitive Psychology
Wednesday 4th March 2020.
Ben Gonshaw (User Experience Director @ Huge)
Joseph Thompson (Principle UX Designer @ The Economist)
Brief overview -
The way we design is rooted in psychology; understanding how people think and behave fuels the way we design products. Deciding on what techniques, strategies and methodologies to use in a design all depend on the way the mind works, and so how does the mind work?
The question raised here is something UX Designers (and designers in general can spend hours debating), and do. My issue was aside from GA, and during my time at University, I had never really had the opportunity to discuss these issues because of the lack of UX events I’d attended. With that in mind, this was my first UX Crunch event and considering it was aimed at Juniors, I was very excited. Although the event lasted until 9PM, I had to leave a bit earlier and, therefore, was only able to catch the first talk by Ben Gonshaw, the User Experience Director @ Huge. Please see my thoughts on his talk, and the ideas presented by Ben below.
I found Ben’s speech fascinating. Putting the actual UX content aside for a moment, I found Ben’s presentation style very relaxing, calming, and engaging — he definitely had a style that came very naturally to him which came across really well. This allowed Ben to take advantage of quirks and gimme’s from the audience which naturally gave him ongoing confidence in terms of presenting his content — especially as he was very much taking us on a journey throughout this content.
As for the content he was walking us through — again I was really impressed. Ben referred to his background in game design at the beginning of the talk, and some of his more visual work (a quick look at his LinkedIn shows this as well), therefore meaning Ben skills venture much further than traditional research-based UX and prototyping. He can certainly do both. He used this to great effect. Referring to the Cognitive Bias Index (pictured below), and how we are naturally drawn to certain things on a page based on where they are placed, and the emphasise given to them by the artist through the colours used to make them stand out, and the place they are designated on it, he provided quite a thorough explanation on how we naturally prioritise items on a page. What information can/ will we remember? When is their too much information on a page? When is there a lot of information on a page, but minimal meaning behind it? The questions go on but to great effect considering this is a technique used very sparingly by many people in the field. Furthermore, this remained something Ben very cleverly continued to refer back to throughout as a lot of points he then went on to make regarding UX made full use of these principles. Ben had certainly planted a seed…
Moving on, Ben then introduced a method that a lot of companies do when they are trying to upsell a product or deal to their customer based. The method is called ‘Asymmetric Dominance Effect’ . I won’t go into the exact science behind the theory as that can be found by following the link (a picture taken at the event of this can also be seen below), but in his talk Ben eluded to how phone companies trick us into thinking the worse deal for us is in fact the best by displaying certain information in the middle of the page, as well as adding and taking away certain information to emphasise the information they think will help make a sale. Pictured below, the theory is very simply, but incredibly effective.
What stood out to me about this theory in particular is that a lot of it can very easily be applied to UX. As UXers, we’re constantly tasked with trying to find ways of making information easily accessible and digestible, especially with the current climate and the uncertainty surrounding how the Coronavirus which will likely affect us not just over the next twelve weeks (bearing in mind this article was written when the amount of time it was suggested we self-isolate for was around twelve weeks by government officials), but much further beyond that. Businesses everywhere are trying desperately to take advantage of the benefits the digital space has to offer and this makes the structure of how we format information on web pages crucial and is why even basic graphic design theories (such as the Gestalt Principles — another theory Ben eluded to — pictured below), are still incredibly effective.
Ben concluded on these principles as by explaining how these methods had helped him with some of his UX work, as well as outlining some further personal opinions and biases helped the audience come to that ‘eureka’ moment Ben had clearly planned for.
Overall, an excellent speech and some really interesting concepts and ideas put forward by Ben on how we can always use visual and graphic design principles throughout UX work to continue to help us better understand what information on a page is key, and how best to display this. Now… pass me my pen!
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