12 Most Useful Insights from 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People

12 Most Useful Insights from 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People

The book 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People and my 12 insights here all resonate when designing for any screen size or device, although the content should always be customized for the “intent” of the customer and how they connect.

I read “The 100 Things” by Susan Weinschenk, PhD, flavored by both the lens of the past in the form of my education from the books on “Visualization of Information” by Edward Tufte, and through my lens of today: creating a seamless experience for customers wherever they are!

1. Peripheral vision is used more than central vision to get the gist of what you see

Knowing this now will change the “what and how” of how I design the edges of the screen; for example, I will pay even more attention to side-bar design on a blog site, making sure it is clear and easy to read, as this may be the first impression a visitor gets of your website or presentation. On a smartphone, this might only be a “feel good” color around the edges.

2. People remember only four (4!) items at once

This really resonated with me, especially as a website I am currently designing has seven informative pop-ups on the landing/home page; usually presented as a list of seven options. I am seriously rethinking this — how to make it easier to both navigate and easier to remember. It’s no accident that U.S. phone numbers look like this 123-456-7890 (three chunks of four or fewer items).

3. People are happier when they’re busy

But they need a reason to be busy. On a website or presentation, I interpret this as keeping people “busy” focusing and holding their attention by the journey of discovery I design for them. The journey is far more interesting with interaction and response. As technologies like Leap Motion or PrimeSense become mainstream, it’s going to be difficult for designers to restrain themselves!

4. People think choice equals control

People need to feel in control and that they have choices. Designing different ways to discover the information, even if some may be a tad less efficient, allows the option of choice = control. We all think our online visitor has limited time and insists on the shortest distance from A to B, however it seems people actually prefer making a choice, even if it takes them on the path less travelled!

5. People scan screens based on past experiences and expectations

The area of the screen where a person looks first is dependent on what they are doing (intent), and their mental model of what they want to see, and where they expect to see it. This is something I really have to keep in mind when designing, as I most often design for “new and different.” I have to remember to not stray too far away from people’s expectations, as they might feel strange or even alienated, and that’s obviously not the customer experience I want to create for your customers.

6. Using sound to get attention

This is especially true of sound resulting from certain actions. We often don’t think of designing “sound effects” into our customer’s online experience, other than the usual ones: sending message, tweeting, or hard-drive crash. With this in mind, should I add the sound of a “water drop” to our donate button and have it go “plink” when someone contributes to a water project in Africa? (I am thinking more like the sound of a drop of water hitting a pool, rather than a toilet flush). Humor is another way to capture attention — I know about that and do it often!

7. People may care more about time than money

This is a difficult one, especially when applying this to a non-profit website where amongst other things we are asking for contributions. My take on it: if those who visit our website experience a “good time,” which is helpful to them and resonates with their own goals and feelings, then regardless of the time spent they will be inclined to join our community.

8. Your brain responds uniquely to people you know personally

Or people you think you know, because they look just like someone you do know! We’ve been applying this principal for years, profiling your customer, their preferences, their habits, and how they look. With this information we have used “look and do alike” images in ads, TV spots, and more recently online. Now I have a better idea of the “why.”

9. Anecdotes persuade more than data

While telling stories is in style big time now, for some of us it never was out of style. Telling stories is an integral part of “content marketing,” and people always remember stories or at least parts of them. The point here is that today we are inundated in data, often poorly presented and misperceived, but if you can tell an interesting story it evokes empathy which triggers an emotional reaction. Emotions trigger the memory centers. You now have a captive audience who remembers what you say! (For better or worse, remember!)

10. People are programmed to enjoy surprises

Things that are new and novel capture attention. I interpret this as creating a journey of discovery on a website, providing novel or unexpected content and interactions. Added to this could be the promise that there will always be something new upon your return. Caution though — too much “surprise” might be a turn-off — no one likes a negative surprise!

11. People feel more positive before and after an event than during it

This means we should extend the anticipation of any event as long as possible, and then wait a few days before asking people for satisfaction ratings. You usually can’t control where someone exits your online presence the way you can from your house, but that last experience often flavors the entire visit, just like that fabulous dinner the last night of your vacation can do.

12. People use “look and feel” as their first indicator of trust

When participants in a recent study rejected a website as not being trustworthy, 83% of their comments were related to design factors, such as unfavorable first impression of look and feel, poor navigation, color, text size, and even the name of the website. Remember, you can only make a first impression once, and the design and UI will be pivotal in the journey of establishing a relationship of trust with your customer! (I bet this really resonates with you designers out there!)

This is an important read for any designer because the author backs up the “100 Things” with qualified background research, giving the all important “WHY.”

So, what “things” resonated the most with you?

Disclaimer: I bought my own copy from Amazon; no freebies for promo here!

Featured image courtesy of notsogoodphotography licensed via Creative Commons.



Caroline Di Diego (CASUDI) is a multi-faceted entrepreneur with two parallel careers. In the one she focuses on Architectural Design solutions and the other (where most of you know her) she helps start ups & early-stage companies, building effective start-up teams, creating workable business models, and bringing new technologies to market. Her business & design partner of 21 years is James Ferris.

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