Top 30 sites for freelancers
Every site you'll ever need! check it out →

Psychology in Web Design

Psychology in Web Design

Psychology is a wide and complex subject. However, you can use the studies to your advantage when making design decisions for your website. Having some knowledge of basic psychology can help you consider human elements necessary to create successful websites. You want to be credible and establish trust with your web site users. It’s important to remember when you’re reading this article, you’re not designing the behavior of an interface for a web site, you’re designing for the behavior of living breathing human beings.

There are a few principles that you need to learn and apply for your websites:

  • Consistency
  • Visibility
  • Learnability
  • Feedback



People are sensitive to change. People notices when there are differences in experiences – we don’t want people asking “why is this different” or “why isn’t this the same?”

When things move around or change from page to page it’s sore to the eyes. Users are drawn not to the content, but to the objects that are moving. They aren’t paying attention to what you want them to do.

Designing for Consistency for Psychology in web design



Invite people to interact using visual cues. When interactions are hidden you cannot invite people to become engaged. They decrease usability and efficiency.

Avoid situations where visitors falsely believe they have reached the end of the site’s content.

You also want to signal the availability of interaction with inviting visual clues. People love to click and will attempt to interact with anything that appears clickable.

Visual Cues and clues for Psychology in Web Design

Use different text colors and styles, depth cues like gradients, icons and textures to invite interaction.

Text Styles that invite interaction fo Psychology in Web Design

Text Styles that invite interaction fo Psychology in Web Design




Interaction should be easy to learn and easy to remember. Ideally, you want users to use it once, learn it, and remember it forever.

Using theories from psychology can help us better understand how people acquire and retain knowledge and skills. With psychology in web design, it’s important to remember two basic theories, operant conditioning and observational learning.

Operant conditioning is when you have a positive outcome, it increases the probability of that behavior. In other words, it’s a behavior reward or punishment.

Observational learning is all about modeling or imitation. We watch someone do something and repeat what we’ve seen. Video tutorials are an excellent example of observational learning.

You should always design to try and take advantage of what people already know.

Learnability for Psychology in Web Design



Feedback should compliment a users experience and never complicate it. If something on your web site requires a user to wait, it’s crucial to provide an indicator to that user that something is happening and it’s okay to wait. The method of feedback you provide should help the user understand that something is happening.

Feedback provided for Psychology in Web Design

Have you ever submitted a form twice and got an error because you weren’t sure you clicked the submit button? It happens all the time. If people don’t realize that what they have done has been received, they will keep trying. This is a prime example of how important providing visual feedback is.

Feedback provided for Psychology in Web Design

Using the Cursor property with CSS is an excellent way to provide feedback to your users.


If you follow these principles and use all of them together for your web site, the users of your site will be much happier and that will contribute to your success. It’s important to always keep in mind who your audience and users are and to design for them. We all like to make design decisions based on what we like or what we think looks good, but that can be a devastating mistake. Design for your users. Period.

Written by Steve

Steve is a freelance web designer, technologist, educator, Adobe Certified Expert and friend from the San Francisco bay area. He is a incessant seeker of knowledge and tirelessly thinks about how he can make things better. You can learn more about him on his website, or by following him on Twitter: @scribblesteve

  • lucasbytegenius

    I agree with three of the ideas mentioned, but not with consistency. All-new designs are awesome, simply spruicing up the old one gets boring after a while.

    • Steve

      Thanks for your comment.

      I agree that redesigns can reinvigorate a brand sometimes. I was speaking more in terms of content on the page rather than redesigns. When menus, buttons, layouts shift and relocate within a single browsing session, it affects the users experience negatively. As a general rule, you should steer away from “surprising” the users of your site.