UX Lisbon: Neuro Web Design

by Luke Wroblewski May 16, 2010

At the User Experience Lisbon (UXLX) conference in Portugal, Susan Weinschenk outlined some of the subconscious ways our minds work and how this impacts design in her presentation: Neuro Web Design: What Makes them Click?. Here's my notes on her talk:

  • A series of tests on scrambled sentences showed that people responded strongly to subliminal suggestions. Their actions (being nice, rude, fast, or slow) were influenced by the kind of words they spent time unscrambling.
  • Framing or anchoring: we are influenced by things around us and we are not even aware at how much of this happens in our subconscious.
  • Technology changes but people don't. Evolution is on the scale of millions of years not tens of years. So understanding how people make decisions helps us design.
  • There are three parts to the brain: new, old, and mid brain. The new brain takes care of conscious processing. The mid brain processes emotions, pictures, stories, and faces. The old part of the brain is interested in survival. It's scanning the world looking for what to eat, mate with, and avoid.
  • We have to talk to all three parts of the brain when designing websites.
  • Humans like to have a lot of choices, because we want to feel in control. But when we have too many choices, we don't make one. We are overwhelmed by too many options.
  • We always think more is better but if there are too many choices, people won't choose anything. We think people are making decisions rationally but they are not.
  • When we are uncertain what to do, we look to others for what to do. This is social evolution.
  • Whatever is scarce is seen as more valuable. If people see others getting something and they can't have it, they want it. Cookie jar test: if there are fewer cookies in a jar, they are thought to taste better than the cookies in a full jar. This is based on loss aversion.
  • It's very typical for the unconscious mind to react to things before the conscious mind knows what's going on.
  • The fear of loss is more important to us than the possibility of gain. People spent more money when they were taking features away from a car than adding them to a car.
  • The mid brain is really sensitive to stories. Our brain reacts to stories as if they are happening to us. They engage us.
  • The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing -Socrates.