4 min read

How can we use behavioral psychology to create better user experiences

Behavioural design is quickly becoming a buzzword in the realm of user experience design. And for good reason. Behavioural scientists in the fields of psychology, and economics have conducted lots of research about how human behaviour and how designers have the skill and experience to use those insights and create products that can improve the quality of our lives and make us happier.

So what is Behavioural design?

Behavioural design uses insights from psychology and research to track the correlation between an app and users behaviours. Designers can then depend on actual behaviours to design products rather than depending on assumptions or reported behaviour. 

Thus, essentially, behavioural design combines user experience design process expertise with scientific testing. It is a combination of the disciplines of design, human interaction and human behaviour. 

This science emerged when researchers realized that many psychological factors impact the UX of a product or service. Understanding this science in depth can help businesses design products for better user experience. 

Human Psychology in UX Design

Psychology is deeply ingrained in UX design. Research has shown that UX design and psychology has had a long-term relationship in all aspects – social, behavioural and cognitive. Human actions are driven by two primary factors – motivation and competition. As human beings before our other basic needs can be met, our psychological needs must be met. Likewise for a product to be successful, it needs to meet the primary needs of a user and be functional. Without which a user will lack the motivation to continue using the product or service.

With a deeper understanding of human psychology, designer can elevate their products and provide a much better user experience that keeps customers wanting more. 

User experience is driven by three integral elements – the technology, the design and the user. While technology and design are obviously crucial, ultimately it is the user that is the most significant aspect that can make or break user experience. Understanding human psychology can in fact create a seamless user experience. 

Psychology can help designers develop a deeper understanding of the users. When design is created using the principles of psychology, it can create a more satisfactory experience when they interact with the product. It also tells us more about how the user will perceive the design.

Behavioural Psychology and UX

The principles of behavioural psychology state that human behaviour can be influenced by certain conditioning. Conditioning occurs when humans interact with the environment. The way they respond is dependent on their past interactions in a similar scenario. 

In the context of UX design, the way people interact with your website or app is dependent upon their past experience of a similar website or application. They are unconsciously looking for patterns that they can identify. Thus it is important to keep this principle in mind while designing and not sacrifice familiarity for trends. 

Let us look at some psychological principles that have a lot of use in UX design. The application of these principles can help improve features such as usability, navigation, readability and accessibility. Thus improving overall user experience.

The principle of least effort

This principle states that to achieve their goals, users will choose the path with the least amount of difficulties. People, while extremely capable of processing complex patterns, do not want to spend too much of their time thinking. Even if there are multiple ways to perform a task, people will take the path of least resistance. 

Thus in user experience, when users are able to complete their tasks with minimal thinking, their brains perceive it as a seamless experience. Thus UI/UX designers should aim to develop designs that reduce the amount of thinking and relies more on intuition. This can be achieved by using simple and intuitive icons, rather than long winded descriptions.

Our brains pick up visual cues faster than text. 

Another example is to design a login page with minimal information. A lengthy sign up process could cause the users to abandon the process.

Law of proximity

This principle states that users perceive elements placed close together to be closely related rather than those placed apart. Thus always group elements that are related close to each other rather than placing them far apart. For example in product pages, always keep the title and description located close together.

Law of figure/ground

This law states that an element can be perceived either as a figure (a point of focus) or as a background. Users unconsciously differentiate between elements on different planes of focus. This law is applied to UX design through various design elements. Such as information hierarchy, contrast, brightness, colours etc. For example, in order to bring focus to the Call to Action button, it is designed in a brighter color that will make it stand out from the background.


Human psychology can help us recognise a user’s behavioural patterns, thoughts, motivations, and what they expect from a product or service when they use it. Understanding these principles of psychology can help designers create user centric designs that will engage, convert and retain users.

Published by Venky Hariharan

Lead UX Designer


Venky Hariharan Lead UX Designer