The brain has 23 billion neurons. That’s a lot of capacity for mental processing. So what’s going on in there?
Understanding how people think is crucial if you’re going to design for them. Just as there are visual illusions, there are also thinking illusions. This chapter describes some of the interesting things the brain does as it makes sense of the world.
PEOPLE PROCESS INFORMATION BETTER IN BITE-SIZED CHUNKS
- Use progressive disclosure. Show people what they need when they need it. Build in links for them to get more information.
- If you have to make a trade-off on clicks versus thinking, use more clicks and less thinking.
- Before you use progressive disclosure, make sure you’ve done your research and know what most people want and when they want it.
SOME TYPES OF MENTAL PROCESSING ARE MORE CHALLENGING THAN OTHERS
- Evaluate the loads of an existing product to see if you should reduce one or more of the loads to make it easier to use.
- When you design a product, remember that making people think or remember (cognitive load) requires the most mental resources.
- Look for trade-offs, for example, where you can reduce a cognitive load by increasing a visual or motor load.
- Make sure your targets are large enough to be easily reached.
MINDS WANDER 30 PERCENT OF THE TIME
- People will only focus on a task for a limited time. Assume that their minds are wandering often.
- If possible, use hyperlinks to grab onto this idea of quickly switching from topic to topic.
- People like Web surfing because it enables this type of wandering.
- Make sure you build in feedback about where people are so that if they wander, it’s easier for them to get back to the original location or go to the next.
THE MORE UNCERTAIN PEOPLE ARE, THE MORE THEY DEFEND THEIR IDEAS
- Don’t spend a lot of time trying to change someone’s ingrained beliefs.
- The best way to change a belief is to get someone to commit to something very small.
- Don’t just give people evidence that their belief is not logical, or tenable, or a good choice. This may backfire and make them dig in even harder.
PEOPLE CREATE MENTAL MODELS
- People always have a mental model.
- People get their mental models from past experience.
- Not everyone has the same mental model.
- An important reason for doing user or customer research is so you can understand the mental models of your target audience.
PEOPLE INTERACT WITH CONCEPTUAL MODELS
- Design the conceptual model purposefully. Don’t let it “bubble up” from the technology.
- The secret to designing an intuitive user experience is making sure that the conceptual model of your product matches, as much as possible, the mental models of your audience. If you get that right, you will have created a positive and useful experience.
- If you have a brand new product that you know will not match anyone’s mental model, you’ll need to provide training to prepare people to create a new mental model.
PEOPLE PROCESS INFORMATION BEST IN STORY FORM
- Stories are the natural way people process information.
- Use a story if you want people to make a causal leap.
- Stories aren’t just for fun. No matter how dry you think your information is, using stories will make it understandable, interesting, and memorable.
PEOPLE LEARN BEST FROM EXAMPLES
- People learn best by example. Don’t just tell people what to do. Show them.
- Use pictures and screen shots to show by example.
- Better yet, use short videos as examples.
PEOPLE ARE DRIVEN TO CREATE CATEGORIES
- People like to put things into categories.
- If there is a lot of information and it is not in categories, people will feel overwhelmed and try to organize the information on their own.
- It’s always a good idea to organize information for your audience as much as possible. Keep in mind the four-item rule from the “How People Remember” chapter.
- It’s useful to get input from people on what organization schemes make the most sense to them, but the critical thing is that you organize the material. What you call things is often more important than how you have it organized.
- If you’re designing sites for children under age seven, any organization into categories you are doing is probably more for the adults in that child’s world, not for the child.
TIME IS RELATIVE
- Always provide progress indicators so people know how much time something is going to take.
- If possible, make the amount of time it takes to do a task or bring up information consistent, so people can adjust their expectations accordingly.
- To make a process seem shorter, break it up into steps and have people think less. It’s mental processing that makes something seem to take a long time.
THERE ARE FOUR WAYS TO BE CREATIVE
- There are different ways to be creative. If you’re designing an experience that is supposed to foster creativity, decide first which type of creativity you are talking about and design for that.
- Deliberate and cognitive creativity requires a high degree of knowledge and lots of time. If you want people to show this type of creativity, you have to make sure you are providing enough prerequisite information. You need to give resources of where people can go to get the information they need to be creative. You also need to give them enough time to work on the problem.
- Deliberate and emotional creativity requires quiet time. You can provide questions or things for people to ponder, but don’t expect that they will be able to come up with answers quickly and just by interacting with others at a Web site. For example, creating an online support site for people with a particular problem might ultimately result in deliberate and emotional creativity, but the person will probably have to go offline and
have quiet time to have the insights. Suggest that they do that and then come back online to share their insights with others.
- Spontaneous and cognitive creativity requires stopping work on the problem and getting away. If you are designing a Web application or site where you expect people to solve a problem with this kind of creativity, you will need to set up the problem in one stage and then have them come back a few days later with their solution.
- Spontaneous and emotional creativity probably can’t be designed for.
- Remember that your own creative process for design follows these same rules. Allow yourself time to work on a creative design solution, and when you are stuck, sleep on it.
PEOPLE CAN BE IN A FLOW STATE
If you’re trying to design for, or induce, a flow state (for example, you are a game designer):
- Give people control over their actions during the activity.
- Break up the difficulty into stages. People need to feel that the current goal is challenging, yet achievable.
- Give constant feedback.
- Minimize distractions.
CULTURE AFFECTS HOW PEOPLE THINK
- People from different geographical regions and cultures respond differently to photos and Web site designs. In East Asia people notice and remember the background and context more than people in the West do.
- If you are designing products for multiple cultures and geographical regions, then you had better conduct audience research in multiple locations.
- When reading psychology research, you might want to avoid generalizing the results if you know that the study participants were all from one geographical region. Be careful of overgeneralizing.
Takeways from the book “100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People” written by Susan Weinschenk, Ph.D. I just logging the Takeways given at the end of all chapter of the book. These are not my writing. I am just posting them for me for future reference.