BUG: The Top Ten Things Every Designer Needs To Know About People

Susan Weinschenk gave an evening talk to the Bristol Usability Group on “The Top Ten Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People“. These are 10 things from her book 100 Things Every Designer Needs To Know About People. Below are my highlighted notes:

  • We have 3 brains (new, Mid and Old) which affects our view and reaction to the world.
  • People use their peripheral vision more than their central vision. Eye-tracking may not be as useful as we think as it is our ‘central’ vision – be careful
  • The Fusiform Facial Area describes our facial recognition system. We pay attention to faces, particularly those staring back at us (e.g. images on a website). Uses our mid-brain. Mixing multiple faces is creepy to us – think Tom Hank’s character in The Polar Express.
  • People want choice but too much choice de-motivates us and we choose nothing. The often referenced 7+/- two items (George Miller) that humans remember 7 items, is a myth. It is more like 3-4 items (Nelson Cowan 2001) and we only focus on one thing at a time. Thus limit choice.
  • We tend to design in a way that works for us rather than the users. This confirms that user testing is vital.
  • Understanding mental models is very important so that we don’t just design for ourselves. Our experiences between the ages of 8-12 shape our views for life. The demographic (30-40) are designing most of the UX experiences, yet are the smallest demographic which is a problem.
  • The speaker and listeners brain’s sync ‘speaker-listener neural coupling’ (Stephens, Grey + Husson, U 2010). Hence why video is so powerful as it has movement to grab attention and then the audio allows us to get in sync unlike text.
  • People have ‘weak ties’ of 150+ and ‘strong’ ties of -150 according to Prof Robin Dunbar. Something like Facebook is typically used for fewer people and is an example of a strong tie. Twitter, where people tend to follow larger number of people is an example of a weak tie.
  • Beauty is important to us. Based on research, websites should take advantage of beauty. A site could aim to be clear yet slightly unpredictable. People prefer curves to straight things). Beauty is in the eye of the unconscious, Tractinsky, et al.
  • Story telling is great. The brain processes information best when told a story.
  • Images can tell a story. For example if we hear a story about pain we know we are safe but our brain still acts like we are in pain without the ‘physical’ pain. Singer, T., et al. (2004). Empathy for pain involves the affective but not the sensory components of pain
  • People expect technology to follow human to human interaction.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *