How to Understand Your User’s Brain

The user experience is complicated business. It’s important to have a natural curiosity in your user’s behavior. Doing so can help you create more successful websites and apps.

Developers and designers should look at basic cognitive psychology and other behavioral sciences to gain a deeper understanding of how our users think and act. Understanding how our users behave is the first step we need to take before we start developing and designing. Here are a few easy-to-do techniques to help you get started:

Trigger their emotional response

Have you ever had a life-or-death experience? Do you remember the best meal you’ve ever had? Can you recall an entire conversation you had years ago? If you can, it’s because your emotional memory was triggered during those particular events. Humans can recall anything that happened during a heightened emotional state.

So how does this information pertain to designers and developers? We need to create an emotional response. We need to get our users to remember our site, our app, and form a connection with it. The PhotoJojo store is a great example of a company that does this. Everything from their fun fonts to their “happy” and “sad” shopping cart engages their users. PhotoJojo’s quirky site portrays a strong personality for itself—users love interacting with it. Users connect their own personalities with the site. Because users feel the site is an extension of their own personalities, they’ll happily recommend the site to their friends.

Keep everything easy

Frustration and aggravation is a sure way to kill your company. If a user is stressed out, annoyed, or has to work too hard to get what they want, you aren’t doing your company any favors. By putting our users in a state of happiness, you set them up for “breadth-first processing.” When humans have happy experiences, our limbic system releases a powerful neurotransmitter called dopamine. Dopamine aids memory and information processing. Keep everything delightful and easy—don’t let your users run into usability issues.

Limit choice

We’ve been taught that choice is good. However, with too much choice, people stress about making the right or wrong decisions. Have you ever been to a restaurant with an extremely long menu and ordered what you always order after 20 minutes of weighing the pros and cons of each entrée? You were probably happy with your choice…but maybe you still wondered if the Swiss and bacon cheeseburger would’ve been the better entrée.

By limiting the number of possible actions, you decrease the risk of user error. Search forms and travel sites are huge offenders. Choice is important—but there is a certain threshold when choice can hurt you.

Quid pro quo

In Latin, “quid pro quo” roughly translates to “this for that.” The law of reciprocity is similar. If someone buys you a present over the holidays, you naturally feel compelled to give a gift back. The same can apply to almost anything.

A good example of a this is a company that gives its viewers “awards” for that they do. One exemple of this is rewarding viewers with stars for every video they watch, for a website video. This subtle form of encouragement makes the user want to sign up instead of merely re-visiting the website every time they want to watch a new video. These awards, yet small, are a great example of quid pro quo and the subtle laws of reciprocity.

These basic techniques can help you enhance your user’s experience. Try to follow these techniques and track the effect they have. Remember, user experience is something that should support and follow your business goals, not something that should distract from them. By understanding your users and developing to their most basic human nature, you are guaranteed success.

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