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UX & Psychology go hand in hand— How Gestalt theory appears in UX design?

In the age of AI and “ Human Centered Machine Learning ”, it’s essential that we understand the needs and behaviour of our users. This is doubly true as a UX designer. In order to create work that better serves the needs of our users, it’s important to understand some basic psychological principles. Which is why I want to share with you Gestalt theory. With this toolkit under our belt, we can consciously design user experiences that truly fit the users.

Introduction of Gestalt psychology

Gestalt theory was founded by Max Wertheimer at early 20th century. This psychological philosophy addresses with perception, perceptual experiences, and related patterns of stimulation. The motto of the gestalt philosophy is:

“The whole is other than the sum of the parts.” — Kurt Koffka

When human perception meets with complex elements, we recognise the whole before we see the individual parts. As a designer if we understand these psychological principles, we can be more conscious during the design phase. One of the basic document of Gestalt principles stated by Max Wertheimer in 1923, called  Laws of Organization in Perceptual Forms  defined some basic principles (laws) that show how the mind tends to perceive visual stimuli.

Law of Proximity

“Law of Proximity” states when objects are close to each other and they tend to be perceived together in one group. Basically proximity is closeness. If we use clear structure and visual hierarchy we will be less charged by the limited cognitive resource of users, so they will be able to quickly recognise and react.

Law of Similarity

The “Law of Similarity” states that elements tend to be perceived into groups if they are similar to each other. That also means if you have elements with same functionality, meanings and hierarchy level, should visually matching.

“Consistent sequences of actions should be required in similar situations; identical terminology should be used in prompts, menus, and help screens; and consistent color, layout, capitalization, fonts, and so on, should be employed throughout.” —  Ben Shneiderman

Law of Common Region

The ‘Law of Common Region’ by  Stephen Palmer and Irvin Rock (1999) , states that elements tend to be perceived into groups if they are sharing an area with a clearly defined boundary. In design we are often using cards to grouping coherent elements.

Law of Figure Ground

“Law of Figure Ground” states “Elements are perceived as either figures (distinct elements of focus) or ground (the background or landscape on which the figures rest)”  Andy Rutledge . This law is very useful when we want to influence the focal point on the screen.

Law of Closure

The Law of Closure states that when we encounter a complex element with a missing part, or with a break, we look for a continuing, smooth pattern. In other words, we fill in the gaps.

Conclusion

The intention to write this article was to emphasise the importance of basic knowledge cognitive psychology in UX design. We are using many different psychological principles, but not consciously all the time. Of course, while Gestalt psychology can help improve your UX, there are many other psychological theories that can help you create a better design process. Keep your eyes peeled for more articles from me about psychology in the design process.

Further reading

Are you still interested in Gestalt Theory? Here are some useful links to learn more about the topic:

This article was originally posted at:
https://uxdesign.cc/ux-psychology-go-hand-in-hand-how-gestalt-theory-appears-in-ux-design-18b727343da8

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Call to action (CTA)

A call to action is a marketing term that refers to a prompt that invokes a response leading to a sale. When referring to a call to action (CTA) in the digital design world we usually mean the interactive element that leads to the next step in the experience - something that needs to be clicked or tapped.

User testing

User testing refers to a technique used in the design process to evaluate a product, feature or prototype with real users. There are several reasons why you might want to undergo usability testing, the most common is that it allows the design team to identify friction in a user experience they are designing, so that it can be addressed before being built or deployed.

WYSIWYG

WYSIWYG (pronounced WIZ-ee-wig) is an acronym for "What You See Is What You Get". It helps identify an an interface that allows user input resulting in an output that is rendered in a similar way. For example; a word processor application interface might resemble a piece of paper,so when printed the user can see how the output will appear.

Content Management System

A content management system (CMS) is an tool that allows a website editor/administrator to manage the content that is displayed. Websites are made of HTML and CSS to create pages. Pages can be hard-coded but would require technical development skills to make changes. A CMS usually allows a person without coding knowledge to amend existing and add new content to a website using a WYSIWYG interface.

Responsive Web Design

Responsive web design refers to a web page that dynamically adapts its layout to fit the size and orientation of the device on which it is viewed. A responsive design allows for a more optimised user experience across desktop and laptop computers as well as smartphones and tablets of varying sizes.

User Stories

User stories allow the functionality of a product or service to be expressed as written descriptions of an experience as seen from the users perspective. The writing of user stories creates a list of design and development tasks to complete in order to create any required functionality.

User Interface

A user interface (UI) is a conduit between human and computer interaction - the space where a user will interact with a computer or machine to complete tasks. The purpose of a UI is to enable a user to effectively control a computer or machine they are interacting with, and for feedback to be received in order to communicate effective completion of tasks.

Personas

A persona in UX Design is the characterisation of a user who represents a segment of your target audience. On a project you might create any number of personas to be representative of a range of user needs and desires. The solutions you design must answer these needs in order to deliver value to your target audience.

Card sorting

A great, reliable, inexpensive method for discovering patterns in how users would expect to find content or functionality. Card sorting is used to test the taxonomy of data with a group of subjects, usually to help inform the creation of the information architecture, user flow, or menu structure on a project.

Brainstorming

A technique used to generate ideas around a specific topic. Often done in groups, but can be done individuals. The process usually involves writing down all ideas around a topic onto paper, a whiteboard or stickies often implying some kind of association.

Minimum Viable Product

An MVP is a product that has the minimum set of features to prove the most essential hypothesis for a product. Businesses building a new product can create a Minimum Viable Product to prove that an idea is viable and warrants further investment. A further benefit being that the next stage of development can be informed by feedback obtained from testing that MVP.

Sitemap

A sitemap is a diagrammatic representation of a hierarchical system. It usually depicts the parent-sibling relationship between pages in a website, showing how sub pages might be arranged underneath their parent groupings. This arrangement forms a map of the site.

User journey

A user journey represents a sequence of events or experiences a user might encounter while using a product or service. A user journey can be mapped or designed to show the steps and choices presented as interactions, and the resulting actions.

Prototype

A prototype is draft representation built to test ideas for layout, behaviour and flow in a system. Prototypes are an indispensable tool for resolving a large number of potential issues in a concept or business before too many resources are deployed to put a design into production.

Wireframes

A Wireframe is a visual schematic that conveys a basic level of communication, structure and behaviour during the design of a system. Wireframes are low-fidelity designs that bypass including a detailed user interface or visual design, conveying just enough to get across the core idea.

Usability

To say something is usable is a qualitative statement about how easy that thing is to use. Usability is an assessment of how learnable a system is and how easy a user finds it to use. The usability of a system or product is a key factor in determining whether the user experience is a good one.

Information Architecture

Information architecture is the design and organisation of content, pages and data into a structure that aids users understanding of a system. A more organised system enables users to more easily find the information they require and complete the intended tasks.

UI Design

User Interface Design is the discipline of designing software interfaces for devices, ideally with a focus on maximising efficiency, responsiveness and aesthetics to foster a good user experience.

UX Design

The practice of User Experience (UX) Design is the coming together of many specific design related disciplines to improve the usability, responsiveness, uptake and aesthetics of a product or service.

User Experience

A general term that covers all aspects of a user's participation while engaging with something that has been designed. Usually when talking about User Experience in the digital design field it refers to the interactions, reactions, emotions and perceptions while using an app, service, website or product.

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