How psychology and UX influence user decision-making

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6 Mar
6 Mar

In the realm of UX design, every click, swipe, and tap is a story of simple yet effective choices built on psychological tricks. This mix creates digital experiences that encourage users to interact, making your website perform at its best. With this in mind, you can create sales strategies to optimize customer journeys and convert browsing into buying.

UX design is intricately linked with the psychology behind what makes people click, ensuring every interaction with a platform isn’t just good but delightful. The magic lies in skillfully guiding users’ choices to make their journey smoother. As you can note, product success goes beyond technological gimmicks, and today, we’ll uncover how to do it in the smartest way.

Decision-making strategies

Every day, we’re bombarded with decisions. From the mundane, like choosing what to have for breakfast, to the monumental, such as buying a house. Often, this process is complicated by a variety of options that can sometimes lead to decision paralysis, making even simple choices feel like an impossible task.

For example, you’re on the hunt for a new monitor to jazz up your workspace. You land on the Amazon website, type a search query, and boom — thousands of results greet you. To make the search more successful, there is an array of filters on the side. You tweak the settings for the desired price, model, ratings, and delivery options, among other individual preferences, aiming to pinpoint the best deal. Finally, a manageable list of monitors sits before you, each waiting for its turn to shine.

This journey showcases two key strategies in decision-making: non-compensatory and compensatory. Both have their own way of guiding us through choices, each with its unique approach to help us make final decisions. To uncover how they play out in our choices, let’s move on to the next chapter. 

From clicks to choices

When we’re faced with decisions, big or small, it often feels like we’re standing at a crossroads. First up, we have the non-compensatory strategy that swiftly eliminates any options that don’t tick all your boxes. When we’re talking about examples in web design, filters are here to guide users through choices, especially on sites with a vast array of offers. They’re so crucial in helping us avoid choice overload that we’ve come to expect them everywhere we go online. Without them, we might just feel lost and overwhelmed, possibly even giving up on our search altogether.

 A wide range of choices can make users confused

A wide range of choices can make users confused

Then, there’s the compensatory strategy, where things get a bit more nuanced. This approach is all about weighing the pros and cons, mixing and matching the good with the bad until you find the perfect balance. In UX design, comparison tables are a great example. They lay everything out on the table so that users can contrast options without breaking a sweat. Well-organized and easy to scan, the tables connect everything in neat rows and columns, helping us make the right decisions.

Netflix’s plan section in a comparative table
Netflix’s plan section in a comparative table

In reality, many decisions involve a blend of both strategies. Users often switch between them depending on their stage in the decision-making process — be it initial exploration or final comparison.

What is the Halo Effect and how it affects us

By tapping into the insights above, designers can create interfaces that look good and feel right, making every decision a step towards a more intuitive and user-friendly world. But there’s much more to consider, and the Halo Effect is another thing worth attention.

The essence of this intriguing social-psychological phenomenon lies in shaping the entire impression of something or someone by just one single trait. Sounds a bit unfair, right? But that’s exactly how the Halo Effect works.

Edward Thorndike first explored this phenomenon back in 1920 and showed that it could swing both ways — positive or negative. If you’re into a particular feature of someone or something, you’re likely to paint everything else about it in a positive light. On the flip side, if one aspect rubs you the wrong way, it can cloud your judgment, making it tough to see the good in other things.

So, why does the Halo Effect even happen? It boils down to our brain’s need to make quick calls and form snap judgments with just a slice of the whole information. Back in the day, this was crucial for our ancestors’ survival, helping them instantly tag who was friend or foe without scrolling through a detailed user profile.

Exploring the Halo Effect with UX design examples

When designing a website, one captivating element can be the linchpin for a lasting positive impression, demonstrating the power of first interactions. However, a less-than-stellar first encounter can make users lose interest and deter them from a return visit. There are many traps you can fall into, and to prevent them, let’s explore these aspects in detail.

Stressful sign-in or sign-up 

The first hurdle many of us face is the sign-in or sign-up process — a step that should ideally be quick and straightforward. Yet, it’s worth noting that each service adopts its own unique approach to registration, which can be either easy or frustratingly complex (warning: this website may cause eye strain, confusion, and mild existential dread 😁)

This virtual obstacle course serves as a perfect example of the Halo Effect in action. Imagine you’re trying to sign up for this new service, and right off the bat, things get weird. We doubt you could tolerate that for long.

Whatever you’re designing, don’t do this
Whatever you’re designing, don’t do this

So, when crafting those sign-in or sign-up forms, keep things light and simple. There’s no need to bombard users with every possible field or feature at once. Stick to the essentials, make it smooth, and remember, you can always get more info later. 

The case of the hidden features

Going back to negative experiences, there are many situations related to unclear web design. Hidden functions are exactly the aspect that makes users get lost and wonder what is going on.

Imagine the excitement of exploring a sports brand’s website, ready to start a late-night shopping spree. But that anticipation grinds to a halt upon discovering that the “show more” button, expected to display a list of products, merely opens filters. This kind of scenario makes you feel upset, causes frustration, and sometimes even triggers you to leave the site immediately.

Hidden features are a red flag in design
Hidden features are a red flag in design
Think twice before you decide to play hide and seek with essential features.

The Halo Effect, with its power to influence our cognitive biases, reminds us that even the smallest details can cast a long shadow over our perceptions and decisions. A minor hiccup on your website might not just be a small bump but could turn into a full-blown roadblock in your brand’s relationship with potential customers.

Designing principles to keep it simple for users

It’s easy to label people as “lazy,” but that’s not the full picture. People naturally gravitate towards achieving their goals with the least effort possible. In an age where options are endless and every click brings a new decision, it’s crucial to navigate the fine line between offering choice and maintaining simplicity. Let’s explore a few key principles that ensure your users don’t get lost in the maze but instead find a clear and easy path to their goals.

  1. Introduce new elements thoughtfully. Keep in mind that each addition can potentially add stress and complicate the decision-making process. Options need to be rich in possibilities and easy for efficient interaction. In complexity, there’s a risk of losing users to simpler alternatives.

  2. Add optimal default settings and recommended options. Consider donations, for example. Users are more likely to pick a specific amount when presented with options rather than just a “Donate” button. This reduces cognitive load and makes life easier: no need for new pages or waiting and no pondering over the appropriate amount to give.
  1. Do not overload an interface. This statement can be explained with the help of Hick’s Law. This principle claims the more alternatives you present, the longer it takes to make a decision. At first, it’s exciting to see many options, but soon, the abundance becomes overwhelming. The visual clutter accompanying this vast selection can leave users craving a quick exit more than anything else.
Each new option adds time, information, and the risk of making the wrong choice.

The closing chapter

Great design lies not in how much to add but in how to help users achieve their goals with what we choose to include. Of course, having plenty of options is fantastic. But their balanced distribution and how they’re presented on a website truly influence the decisions visitors make. So, focus on crafting experiences that speak to this balance, making every interaction the right choice for the moment.

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