Sometimes people are surprised when they discover that my background is in psychology, and they wonder what’s the intersection between psychology and technology. Well there’s a big relationship between the two fields.
Have you ever designed something and were surprised by how people interacted with your interface or responded to the design.
People might not notice something that’s right there in front of them and you’re surprised that people don’t see that. So what psychology does: it helps explain why, it helps you anticipate what users behaviors might be before you even design your interface. What I find is that the most successful interaction designers are the ones that use psychology to inform their design decisions. To understand what drives people to behave a certain way, to perceive an interface a certain way, we do really need to understand the underlying mechanisms for how people process information. So cognitive psychology is really important in helping us better understand how people perceive our designs. Now for people, we typically come with a lot of cognitive bias; we are not logical beings. You know, oftentimes we’ll hear people say things like “you know I want a lot of information,” but when we go back and look at our data we find that people are only reading about 20% of the content that’s available to them. Similarly, with features people might say “I want all of these features.” But experience tells us that people stay very true to a very narrow set of features that are available to them. One other thing to keep in mind is that human memory is fallible. We only can keep several seconds of what we see, what we perceive in our environment, in our minds for a very short period of time unless it’s rehearsed. So as designers it’s very important for us to understand how people store information in their minds so that they can make decisions quickly and make the right decisions that will help them achieve their tasks. So in the end what I do see is that designers who take into account people’s cognitive limitations and abilities are better equipped at planning and designing interfaces that match human cognition.