Eye reflection of Google

What do design entrepreneurs need to know about human sense perceptions?

You have to be a bit of a behavioral scientist to design well.

To be a good design entrepreneur, you must be aware of how people actually see and how the brain interprets stimuli. What you think people are seeing may not be what they do see depending on their background, knowledge, familiarity, expectations, and environment. Design and perception go hand in hand.

You need to know:

Perception image
  • How people see. This relates to user interfaces, hot maps, optical theories, pattern recognition, people’s expectations of graphic communication, and visual impairments.
  • How people read. This involves typography. Why are all-caps harder to read than lowercase? Why do people prefer hard copy to a computer screen?
  • How people remember. Do they like chunks, bits, or long form? Do they remember more or less when they are moving the knobs and features?
  • How people think. Research suggests that ‘progressive disclosure’ rewards users for their gradual efforts. Using stories in the communication design breaks up the factual information.
  • What motivates people. Do they love achieving goals or being rewarded for loyalty? Do they like progress indicators for user tasks?
  • That people are social animals. How does the innovation fit into their social environment? How do they interact with their friends and peers? Do they freely give social feedback or word-of-mouth feed-forward?
  • How people feel. Can you read their body language when collecting user feedback? Does graphic design/content affect your trustworthiness (credibility)? Do they have relationships with you?
  • People make mistakes. How can you learn from the mistakes and errors in your communication design and software?
  • How people decide. What do they think about when they buy a product? Do they like more or fewer options?

Let’s have a look at some examples taken from Weinschenk, S. (2015). 100 things every designer needs to know about people (2nd edn). Berkeley, CA: New Riders; Weinschenk, S. (2015). 100 more things every designer needs to know about people (1st edn). Berkeley, CA: New Riders; Susan Weinschenk’s Slide Share.

100 Things Every Designer Needs To Know About People by Susan Weinshenk
100 Things Every Designer Needs To Know About People by Susan Weinshenk

Central vision sees objects, but peripheral vision captures the gist.

Source: Larson, Adam M., and Lester C. Loschky. “The Contributions of Central versus Peripheral Vision to Scene Gist Recognition.” Journal of Vision 9, no. 10 (2009): 6–6.

People use their peripheral vision to get the ‘gist’ of a scene. Gist lacks details yet; main impression. Our peripheral vision picks up danger too. Results indicated the periphery was more useful than central vision for capturing the ‘sense’ or ‘gist’ of a scene or situation. See how the ‘peripheral mind’ sees danger while the ‘central mind’ sees only objects. Have a look at this well-known US commercial.

Animated gif showing peripheral vision
Allstate spokesman Dennis Haysbert sits in an armchair in the middle of a street as cars pass by. https://www.ispot.tv/ad/d14e/allstate-drivewise-4-way-observation-featuring-dennis-haysbert

The sense or gist of a scene or situation comes from peripheral vision. In everyday language the term “peripheral vision” is often used to refer to what in technical usage would be called “far peripheral vision” outside of 60° vision. 

Field of View
Image: Field of view of the human eye Zyxwv99 – Own work Range of field of view (FOV) for humans with both eyes

Here is a side-view of the human eye, illustrating how the iris and pupil appear rotated towards the object due to the optical properties of the cornea and the aqueous humor.

Peripheral vision
Image: Paul Savage

Too many choices paralyzes thought

Source: Iyengar, Sheena S., and Mark R. Lepper. “When Choice Is Demotivating: Can One Desire Too Much of a Good Thing?Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 79, no. 6 (2000): 995.

In the famous ‘Jam Experiment’, the researchers set up two sampling tables at different times in a busy upscale grocery store and posed as store employees. One table had six choices of fruit jam for people to try and the other had twenty-four jars of jam for sampling.

Clear Glass Mason Jars
Clear Glass Mason Jars https://www.pexels.com/photo/blur-focus-jam-jars-48817/

True, people stopped more frequently at the 24, but they bought most at the Table of Six. For every 100 customers, 60 would try jam at the 24-jar table, but only two would but, whereas 40 people would stop and try the jam at the six-jar table, and twelve of them would actually make a purchase.

Why did they buy more at the 6-jar table? The answer is, people can remember only three or four things at a time.


Too Many Choices
Dozens and dozens of yogurt
  • Resist the impulse to provide your customers with a large number of choices.
  • If you ask people how many options they want, they will almost always say “a lot” or “give me all the options.” So if you ask, be prepared to deviate from what they ask for.
  • If possible, limit the number of choices to three or four. If you have to offer more options, try to do so in a progressive way. For example, have people choose first from three or four options, and then choose again from a subset.

People prefer curved objects to straight

Source: Bar, Moshe, and Maital Neta. “Humans Prefer Curved Visual Objects.” Psychological Science 17, no. 8 (2006): 645–648.

Humans Prefer Curved Visual Objects
Paired real objects were matched in appearance and semantic meaning so that the contour was the critical difference between them.

Researchers found that the type of contour a visual object possesses—whether the contour is sharp angled or curved—has a critical influence on people’s attitude toward that object. People significantly prefer the curved objects. Even a picture of something as harmless as a watch will be liked less if it has sharp-angled features than if it has curved features.

In product design, manufactured products often make a statement through their visual features such as texture, shape, and color, using these basic features to appeal to human emotions. People are not necessarily aware of how those
features influence their impressions. Indeed, many types of first impressions are determined unconsciously.

Don’t give too much information all at once

Progressive disclosure means give people only the information they need at the moment. You help them maintain the user’s focus by reducing clutter, confusion, and cognitive workload. That means, show users only a few of the most important options. Offer a larger set of specialized options upon request. Disclose these secondary features only if a user asks for them. You intentionally leave out some information that may get in the way of them achieving this objective, or confuse them and make their customer journey more difficult.

Progressive Disclosure

The brain processes information best when it is in a story format

This post is unfinished. Do you have any more examples in addition to the above. Please comment below and we’ll include them.

Frederick, O'Connor, Kuratko (2019), Vállalkozáselmélet folyamatgyakorlat (Melbourne: Cengage) Excerpted from Ázsia és a csendes-óceáni térség kiadás Vállalkozáselmélet folyamatgyakorlata (Melbourne: Cengage, 2019)


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