How to be a better designer: Part 2 - Understand how we process information

We are unique in our experiences and how we learn. When designing, we should acknowledge our differences to foster inclusivity and improve the user experience.

Why it matters

Understanding how humans and your target audience see, read, and think will create a foundation to avoid confusion and create a better user experience to accomplish the objective of your creation.

Don't design for average, design for inclusion - Mike Miles

👀 How humans see

Humans identify objects by recognizing patterns.

Recommendation - Use patterns as much as possible.

  1. Use the same color for your primary and secondary buttons.
  2. Use white / negative space to group similar items.

Humans look for clues on how to use an object.

Recommendation - Add a drop shadow on a button to increase the chances of a user taking action

Humans believe things closer together are related.

Recommendation - Add space between items that don't go together and vice versa (put items closer together if they belong together)

📖 How humans read

Reading and comprehending


  • Provide a meaningful title or headline. It's one of the most important things you can do
  • Tailor to your audience's reading level. Use simple words to make your material accessible to a wider audience

Unusual or decorative fonts can interfere with pattern recognition and slow down reading.

Recommendation: Avoid handwritten fonts as they are challenging to read, and readers may transfer this challenge as your design is too hard to understand

Reading a computer screen is more difficult than reading on paper.

Recommendation - break text up into chunks (e.g. bullets, paragraphs, photos)

🧠 How humans think

People process info better in bite-sized information.

Recommendation - Use progressive disclosure. Show people what they need when they need it. Build-in links for them to get more information.

Humans' mind wander 30% of the time


  • Use hyperlinks to grasp this idea quickly, switching from topic to topic. People like web surfing because it enables this type of wandering
  • Add feedback about where people are so that if they wander (e.g., breadcrumbs), it is easier for them to return to the original location or go to the next.

Humans have mental models from past experiences.

Recommendation - do user research to understand the mental models of your target audience.

Want to learn more?

See the following books by Susan Weinschenk, Ph.D.

100 Things designer should know about People

100 More Things Designers Should Know About People

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