Psychology of Interaction Design

Psychology of Interaction Design

Creating applications, interfaces, and other design elements while considering and understanding human psychology is all coupled into a single basket – interaction design. Therefore, as a dedicated designer, it is always a good practice to take user-centered and user experience design measures all through the design process of an application, website, or any other interactive platform.

Therefore, we can refer to interaction design psychology to understand human behaviors and try to infix the behavior into the problems you are trying to solve with the design of applications, interfaces, etc. Thus, it is crucial to understand that as you design these applications, websites, and any other interfaces, you should let user experience govern the design thinking process.

Cognitive Psychology in UX Design

In interaction design, cognitive psychology is a field that explores an in-depth study of human mental processes. Such mental processes include creative thinking and problem solving, the core bases of human user experience design. Including all interaction design through understanding human processes hinders mental barriers to enable great accessibility, usability, readability, navigation, and other crucial aspects.

The human brain works in such a way to allow searches and recognition of particular objects, which often have a match with the surrounding environment. Therefore, interaction designers must adequately understand the cognitive load limits. In this context, cognitive load is the effort required by the human mind to process new information. Understanding the limitations of cognitive load gives room for optimization of interfaces while presenting information in a proper structure with which end users can absorb and understand it faster. If the processing power surpasses the users’ cognitive load, will the users no longer have interest?

Types of Cognitive Load

There are various types of cognitive load, each affecting interaction design somehow. Let’s explore an in-depth view of each type.

Intrinsic cognitive load

It refers to the inherent difficulties in a given task. It, therefore, explores how users absorb and process information while focusing on the task at hand. Such requires the removal of all the interruptions that could deviate the user’s focus to different things. For instance, designers can omit all forms of navigation while feeding the users with the content necessary for them in that particular context. An excellent example of this in real life is the e-commerce checkout – whether on user applications or interactive websites. Therefore, every interaction designing stage must involve reducing the intrinsic cognitive load to increase the concentration, focus, and likelihood of a user completing a given task at hand.

Extraneous cognitive load

Another crucial cognitive load type focuses on how the brain processes a given task’s non-essential problems. Good instances of such issues include micro-interactions, fonts among others. For example, surpassing the extraneous cognitive load limits will mean that users struggle to read specific fonts.

Germane cognitive load

It deals with the construction, automation, and processing of schemas. Users will often rate and range information into different categories and their relationships. If a user meets something new, they will usually check for similarities in the information presented before developing schemas out of the data.

Gestalt principles and Visual Design

The Gestalt principles are the key drivers of interaction design, and therefore, every developer must gain an in-depth understanding of such laws. The laws explore how the human brain perceives visuals and, in turn, creates structures familiar in the environment. Some of the common Gestalt laws include:

Law of closure

The user’s brain ability works in different ways. Therefore, it is essential to ensure the brain’s capabilities can complete a shape by filling in some of the missing information.

Law of similarity

The interactive designer must ensure that similar items have excellent relations in this law. The similarities between similar objects can be through size, shape, color, among other crucial aspects.

Law of continuity

According to the law of continuity, the human eye has various characteristics and qualities. Among these qualities from the interactive aspect, the human eye has the natural capabilities of following up some path, line, or curves in any given design. It is essential to ensure continuity through the content delivered to the end-user with that aspect in mind.

Law of proximity

In this Gestalt interactive law, it is essential to ensure that grouped objects have some significant aspect of relation different from the things which lie far apart. You will often have different categories of information to present to the user. Submitting such information is critical in helping the user differentiate different data sets. Therefore, creating space between the information is crucial to enhance the user’s ability to differentiate some info faster.

Law of symmetry

According to the law of symmetry, the brain has excellent capabilities and preferences for dividing an object into several symmetrical parts. Therefore, as designers, it is essential to ensure consideration of such laws, especially when dealing with large sets of interactive information.

Gestalt laws serve as a guideline for building great interactive interfaces. Therefore, it is essential to ensure consideration of such laws to ensure great psychological understanding between users and, hence, a great bridge into building or designing great interactive platforms.

Interaction Design Psychology principles crucial for every designer

In this piece, we offer a guideline for ensuring excellent interaction design. As a part of providing good interaction design, it is also essential to have an in-depth view of the fundamental psychological laws driving interaction design. Such laws are crucial for every interactive designer, and they include:

Von Restorff effect

It has the capabilities of predicting among a set of objects, an object that stands out from the rest and gives the user an easy recall. The Von Restorff effect is one of the critical principles in interaction design psychology. Differentiating some objects from the rest provides the user with outstanding clarity and vision on the interactive platform or interface. When dealing with call-to-action buttons, designers ensure that users select such buttons from the rest of the content to make it stand out. They achieve that by using different colors for such buttons or enlarging the controls to a given extent. The law also helps when designing tabs. For instance, designers can demarcate currently active checks using a different color.

Hick’s Law

Hick’s law considers interaction design psychology from a different dimension. According to the law, making a decision relies on the number of choices available. In this dimension, the greater the number of options, the longer the user lands on a given decision. With the increase in several selections, there is always a potential increase in the cognitive load, and therefore, no user will make decisions faster with a high cognitive load. Ecommerce design is a significant beneficiary of Hick’s law. There are a lot of activities associated with e-commerce, and on that ground, shoppers will have a wide range of choices regarding products to buy or order. But before a customer buys a given product, they will have multiple visits to confident choices before considering purchasing a given product.

When the list of products is too comprehensive, it can be overwhelming, and therefore, the users of such an interactive eCommerce platform might end up purchasing nothing! Consequently, interactive designers must pay a great deal of attention to matters related to the checkout process. It is crucial to ensure that the steps taken to complete a given sale are optimum or minimal.

The Principle of Least Effort

According to the principle, users will mostly make choices or take specific actions dependably. Such users will always take minor energy actions in this context. With more complexities in the design, an object or product can generate a steeper learning curve, therefore creating a barrier to using such a product. The principle is a crucial ingredient for every interactive designer. Making changes to layouts and interfaces has a significant reliance on this principle. Making frequent changes to interfaces will force them to learn time after time and may annoy them, and losing interest in interfaces is too easy.

The Serial Positioning Effect

According to the Serial Positioning Effect, users have a great tendency to recall the first and last items in a list or any piece of content. It is a crucial law, and psychologists believe that most users have an excellent expectation for meaningful information at the start and end of any given piece of content.

It is crucial for interactive designers who need to create fascinating user experiences. For instance, they can use the law to position the most used navigation links at the beginning or end of a given piece of content.

The Principle of Perpetual Habit

According to the principle, interactive users greatly rely on familiar routines and habits. Therefore, it is crucial to position items so that users will most likely be regular with them. It is also essential to incorporate everyday activities into the entire design.


Interactive design requires a proper understanding of the end-users by incorporating psychological procedures and guidelines. With interaction design psychology, you will understand a strategy that will always be useful for users. It helps comprehend some of the common reasons for interactive design.

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Written by:

Muzammil K

Muzammil K is the Marketing Manager at Aalpha Information Systems, where he leads marketing efforts to drive business growth. With a passion for marketing strategy and a commitment to results, he's dedicated to helping the company succeed in the ever-changing digital landscape.

Muzammil K is the Marketing Manager at Aalpha Information Systems, where he leads marketing efforts to drive business growth. With a passion for marketing strategy and a commitment to results, he's dedicated to helping the company succeed in the ever-changing digital landscape.