Design Psychology: Hoax or Hot Stuff?
Every few years a new trend floats through design markets. These changes usually focus on form and/or function, and it seems that audiences (and many designers) are swept along with the tide without means to contradict or question the outcome. The latest buzz phrase, “design psychology,” began in the architectural design market a few years ago, and now you can partake in courses on this subject at many colleges. Before you plunk down hard-earned cash to learn more about how psychology affects the success of your Web design (or any other design), learn first what this term means to you and your work. Through the following information and links to other sites, I hope to show you how to spot research hoaxes (or poor studies) and how to recognize hot information that will help you succeed with your online endeavors.
What is Design Psychology?
If Freud fascinates you or if Jung trips your trigger, then you already know that psychology is a science. In this instance, design psychology is a science that focuses on social and cultural aspects of any given market to determine how to package products, services, or information for ultimate impact. While architectural and interior designers and print designers, among others, are included as participants in design psychology, this article pertains only to Web designers.
Introduction to Online Design Psychology
Even before the Web was introduced to home use in 1989, researchers began to conduct studies to understand how users accessed the Web and how this access could improve. In 1994, Tim Berners-Lee was proactive with his creation of the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium), a group dedicated to building consensus around Web technologies. While technology (and a consensus, please!) is necessary to this medium, issues about design (or GUI: Graphic User Interface) and what this medium represented was challenged. Marketers began to assail Internet users with scams, spams, and legitimate offers for merchandise, including information that the user had to purchase to receive. Debates began over whether Internet information should be free or not and, despite objections to the use of the Web as a retail enterprise, marketers and their markets began to accept the Internet as a medium for online purchases.
Instead of a store on the street or a box on a store shelf, the Website became the store and the “box” that individuals could access for their needs and wants. Behavioral studies increased in earnest from outside resources (such as Nielson and Gallup) when companies who marketed on the Web wanted to learn how to outsmart their competitors. Now, new studies show that many design techniques used in the past are worthless when various groups were studied for their responses to different online information. Surveys, polls, and other tests became vital links between a marketer and his market, and the results were often hidden from anyone else who wanted to understand how to become more user-friendly to their markets.
However, college students who were exposed to anthropological courses concerned with language, global communities, and the impact provided by the Internet over the past decade are determined to change the corporate climate. From the Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) Laboratory in the Department of Psychology at Wichita State University, Dr. Michael Lewis Bernard appears with his research on Optimal Web Design. His studies take into account the human element, and require an understanding of human nature as well as physiological limitations. Before you delve too deeply into his web site, I would like to take you on a tour of what you will face as you read this material, so you can utilize his information to its fullest.
Linda Goin carries a B.F.A. in visual communications with a minor in business and marketing, and an M.A. in American History with a minor in the Reformation. While the latter degree doesn't seem to fit with the first two educational experiences, Linda used her 25-year design expertise on site at archaeological digs and in the study of material culture. Now she uses her education and experiences in creating social media environments.
Accolades for her work include fifteen first-place Colorado Press Association awards, numerous fine art and graphic design awards, and interviews about content development with The Wall St. Journal, Chicago Tribune, Psychology Today, and L.A. Times.