A good web design needs to grab people’s attention, engage them, and inspire a certain action. Cognitive psychology helps us understand people’s information processing, such as attention, thinking, memory, and perception. Do you see how these two seemingly unrelated fields could make magic when combined?

When you have a better understanding of what makes people tick and how to trigger certain thoughts, you can use that information to create an irresistible web design.

Cognitive psychology describes and explains people’s behaviors and thus, can help you improve a website’s readability, navigation, and usability. 

Instead of guessing whether the audience will like the website and what actions they’ll take, back up your design decisions with cognitive psychology. In that way, you’ll be in control. 

Stimulate the user’s subconsciousness with the help of following cognitive psychology-based tips for effective web design.

1. Take your colors seriously

Did you know that color has been found to increase brand recognition by up to 80%

Choosing a color palette for the website design should go beyond your color preference. It should be a careful and strategic process that aims to provoke specific reactions with specific colors.

Cognitive psychology can teach you about color perception and how people react to different colors.

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The color palette needs to resonate with your audience and match your brand. You must also consider the culture and demographic of the target audience.

Why, you ask?

According to Joe Hallock, principal design manager at Microsoft Azure, men and women give preference to different colors.

In addition, different colors provoke different associations in different cultures. For example, in the U.S., white is associated with marriage, while in India, red is associated with marriage.

Cognitive psychologists have also linked the color red to increased attention. A study conducted by the University of British Columbia has found that the color red can increase performance on a detail-oriented task.

On the other hand, the color blue is found to provoke a calming effect. For more information on which emotions you can evoke with which colors, check out Robert Plutchik’s color wheel.

Consider the colors’ effect on how people feel and think, and you’ll be able to attract and retain the target audience.

2. Claim it until it becomes the truth

In cognitive psychology, an availability cascade is a self-reinforcing cycle where people are more likely to believe a certain piece of information and develop collective beliefs if they come across it multiple times.

How can you use this to your advantage?

If you want to embed a certain idea in the users’ minds, repeat it several times across the website. The more you spread around that thought, the users are more likely to become customers.

For example, you might want to grow a belief that an automating tool will increase productivity and save time. Put that within the content on the home page, product description, blog posts (e.g., write a post “how to be more productive” and mention the product as a solution), etc.

However, bear in mind that you need to spread the seeds evenly. Meaning, you don’t want to repeat a word aggressively and senselessly just to apply a cognitive psychology principle. The elegance and class of the website mustn’t be lost along the way.

3. Limit the choices

Psychologists William Edmund Hick and Ray Hyman had accessed cognitive information capacity and found that providing more choices increases the time needed to make a decision. This principle is known as Hick’s law, and it states that the more information you present, the longer it will take to process.

How to apply this law in web design?

Well, if you limit the choices on the website, people will take action faster and more intuitively.

Limit the options to a minimum. You can do this with different elements of the website, such as adding only necessary social share buttons, minimizing the number of form fields, and of course, having one CTA button per page.

The influence of Hick’s law has been tested numerous times by businesses. For example, Whirlpool managed to increase the CTR in their email marketing campaign by 42% just by eliminating 3 secondary CTA buttons and opted for a single, focused CTA.

Remove the unessential choice. This refers to CTA buttons, website content, navigation, product choice, and more.

The less people have to think about what to do next, the faster they’ll travel through the sales funnel.

4. Use the power of symmetry and asymmetry

Gestalt principles help us make sense of visual perception. One of those principles is going to help us differentiate the effects of symmetry and asymmetry.

Now, let’s learn how to leverage the Gestalt Law of Symmetry.

People tend to perceive symmetrical elements as a single figure. Symmetry helps people comprehend information faster, and it gives them a sense of balance.

Whenever you want to present information comprehensively or unify the visual elements, resort to symmetry.

The symmetrical, unified design makes the website look cleaner and easier to engage with. A misbalance in the design can break the user’s concentration.

But what about asymmetry? How can you leverage it in web design?

Since asymmetry breaks the consistency in focus, you can use it to draw attention.

For example, you can let the users flow throughout the website on the wings of symmetry and then grab their attention with asymmetrical design around CTA.

5. Get your order right

The Serial-position effect is yet another study of perception in cognitive psychology. This theory can help you properly order the information on your design.

The theory suggests that people recall the first and last item in the series best and the middle item worst.

You can utilize this tendency in human behavior to order information for maximum effect.

Place the most relevant pieces of information at the beginning and the end of the content. Apply this principle to other design elements and make the interface user-friendly.

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For example, the first button in the navigation bar can lead to the most relevant page on the website. If you pay attention to different websites, sometimes that first button is “Home,” sometimes “Blog,” and sometimes it leads to a product. That’s no accident.

On the other hand, the last button is usually “Contact.” It makes an impression on people’s memory that they can get in touch with the company’s representatives at any time.

Apply serial-position effect to all design elements. However, to maximize the use of this cognitive psychology theory, back up your decision with AB testing or heuristic evaluation before you finalize your order.

Final Thoughts

The principles of cognitive psychology can be golden for web designers. They can help you shape your design with specific goals in mind. Get inside the people’s heads and make your design memorable and effective.

Understanding human behavior and thought processes can take your design capabilities to the next level. You’ll be able to promise more than a beautiful design. Thanks to cognitive psychology insights, you can promise results.