Cognitive UX Psychology Principles to Improve UX Design

ux psychology principles
As the name of the article suggests, we’ll be talking about UX psychology principles. To be honest, psychology is actually a very vast and complex science, with a huge number of sections, and it is quite closely related to design.

Indeed, in fact, the main goal of design is to increase the “significance” of the product in the eyes of the user, and psychology studies the basic mechanisms by which our consciousness works.

Path of the least resistance

The human brain is capable of many things. Writing, the wheel, the car, an aeroplane, mobile communications – the list of inventions that we owe to our brains is truly impressive. But let’s be honest: people don’t like to think too much.

People tend to take the path of the least resistance. And the UX designer has to make sure that following this path allows the user to achieve goals.

The topic of reducing cognitive load in order to optimise the user experience is raised, for example, by Steve Krug in his highly popular book,

Don’t Make Me Think.

UX psychology principles: minimum effort principle

In his best-selling book, Thinking, Fast and Slow, Nobel Prize-winning economist Daniel Kahneman discusses two systems of the human brain.

System 1

Making quick decisions with minimal mental effort, sometimes automatically.

System 2

Making difficult and important decisions that require a high level of concentration and take a significant amount of time.

People prefer to use System 1 because it is faster and easier. Choosing one of the five absolutely identical cakes in your home in the refrigerator, you will not go deep into thought.

When it comes to more difficult choices, our brains have to get to work in earnest. It’s time for System 2.

People demand simplicity

The average user has higher UX design requirements today than just a year ago, or perhaps three years ago.

If a person opens a page of a product of interest (which has many alternatives) and does not find information about the price, he will most likely go to another site. In this case, it is easier for the user to find another seller than to activate System 2 and apply additional mental effort.

Is the format of the text blocks on the site not very easy to read? There is no doubt that many of its visitors will prefer to look for information in another source.

How to apply the Least Effort Principle to UX Optimisation?

Here are some guidelines to help you leverage the Least Effort Principle to ensure a truly comfortable consumer journey:

Go mentally the entire path of a conditional client from the moment you get to the site until you get the result. If any obstacles are encountered along the way, they should be removed;

Compare the user experience on your site with that of your direct competitors;

Pay attention to how companies that are recognised leaders in this issue approach the process of UX optimisation;

Organise testing to try out non-standard options.

Miller’s law

George Miller was able to establish a rather interesting property of our mind: the average person can store in his short-term memory about 7 ± 2 elements (by the way, one of the consequences of this phenomenon is that a person uses in his daily life at the same time about 3 objects).

Fragmentation is a consequence of this phenomenon in design.


Fragmentation is the division of an object into many parts. In design, this is expressed in the selection of groups of elements:

frames around newspaper articles,

type of telephone number, where blocks of three digits are highlighted,

even a keyboard on which several zones are allocated.

All this allows our brain to more quickly and accurately assimilate information, remember what it saw.

Hick’s Law

This pattern of human consciousness was identified by William Edmund Hick and Ray Hyman. Its main essence can be expressed in the phrase – complexity in simplicity.

This law says that the more elements that influence our consciousness we come across, the more time is allotted to react to them, a kind of “ancestor” of Miller’s law.

Example: The most understandable example is the modern settings of any browser. Initially, going into the settings, we see several tabs, by going through which we open all the new options and find the value we need pretty quickly.

But imagine that all the options will be thrown into a heap. Search time will increase noticeably, won’t it? This is a clear example of both Hick’s law and its solution.

Jacob’s Law

This law is the most widespread in our life. It was formulated recently, in 2000, and its main essence is that users expect from a site the same design and functionality that they have already met (meaning sites of a certain subject matter).

Doesn’t it remind you of the main postulate of life in our society – “Be like everyone else”?

Why is there a redesign?

Surely you have a question why the design of sites and large Australian resources is being updated. Isn’t it going against this law?

In fact, the reason is that the human brain quickly switches to a new model, but it still takes a little time. And in order to give it to users, a fairly simple way is used: letting them choose the version of the site they want to be on.

And before the updates themselves, various votes are created in order to take into account the opinion of the majority in the redesign.


When it comes to design, it all comes down to choice. Each shade, shape, line, font, text, graphics ultimately forms a message that needs to be conveyed to the user.

Experienced Sydney web designers will tell you that design has more to do with studying the psychology of perception and user behaviour than with mastering extraordinary creativity.

When applied to design, UX psychology principles and laws of perception help to create intuitive, eye-pleasing interfaces.


From all the above, you should already have formed a certain understanding of how psychology affects design.

Try to remember that psychology and design are very closely intertwined. Becoming a good UX designer is not so easy – you need to know and learn a lot.

Most importantly, you need to understand how to use cognitive UX psychology principles to improve your UX design.

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