Summary: Creating a website design involves more than just arranging elements on a digital page. Modern designers need excellent creative skills and a deep understanding of their target audience.

Design psychology combines disciplines like neuroscience, cognitive psychology, and social science. It helps create websites optimised for performance by focusing on the user experience (UX). This includes understanding how design elements affect different people. Successful web design begins with understanding the typical user and their behaviour. This helps in making appropriate graphic choices, organising menus, and creating engaging and effective colour combinations.

a graphic for a blog post about design psychology

Key principles of design psychology

Several fundamental laws guide website designers: Hick’s Law, Millar’s Law, and Jakob’s Law.

Hick’s law

Hick’s Law states that the more choices available, the harder it is to make a decision. A cluttered page with too much information or too many menu items can overwhelm users, causing them to leave. Simplifying choices helps avoid cognitive overload, making it easier for users to navigate and decide. For example, Netflix uses specific, narrow categories to reduce choice overload.

Takeaway: Simplify your website to make decision-making easier for users.

Millar’s law

In 1956, George Millar suggested that short-term memory can hold about seven items at once. However, the key is chunking—grouping similar items together. This organisation helps users find what they need quickly and understand the site’s structure.

For example, eCommerce sites often use categories to chunk products. Even within product pages, content is often split into tabs, making it visually appealing and easy to navigate.

Takeaway: Organise website content into digestible chunks for easier navigation and quicker decisions.

Jakob’s law

Jakob’s Law focuses on user expectations. Users spend a lot of time on other sites, forming habits and preferences. If a new website deviates significantly from their previous experiences, it can cause negative reactions. Therefore, aligning with these expectations is crucial. Ecommerce sites, for example, often follow similar layouts to meet user expectations.

Takeaway: Embrace familiarity in design to align with user expectations.

Visceral reaction in design

First impressions are crucial. The visceral brain reacts quickly, forming opinions about a website in seconds. This can influence how content is organised, the type of images used, and the overall aesthetic appeal. High-quality visuals and fast-loading pages are essential to create a positive initial impression.

Colour and design psychology

Colour plays a vital role in design, impacting engagement and emotions. Different colours evoke different responses:

Red: Strong and aggressive, symbolising love or anger.
Blue: Calming and corporate, but also associated with sadness.
Black: Traditional and reputable, but also linked to death and tragedy.

Choosing the right colour scheme can enhance user engagement and brand recognition. Gender preferences in colour can also influence design choices—women might prefer purples and blues, while men might favour brighter tones.

Pattern recognition

Humans are wired to recognise patterns. Users bring preconceived notions to new websites, expecting familiar layouts and menu structures. Deviating from these expectations can cause confusion. Clear, well-organised images and menus help meet user expectations and avoid frustration.

Scanning behaviour

Users often scan web pages before reading in detail, usually following an F or Z pattern. Placing compelling content along these lines ensures users quickly find relevant information. This scanning behaviour highlights the importance of organising text to attract and retain users.

User-centred design

Effective web design is user-centred, incorporating principles like Hick’s Law and Millar’s Law while considering the target demographic. Understanding what elements resonate with users can lead to higher conversions and better returns on investment.


Design psychology is essential for creating websites that not only look good but also perform well. By understanding and applying principles like Hick’s Law, Millar’s Law, and Jakob’s Law, designers can create user-friendly, engaging websites. Considering visceral reactions, colour psychology, pattern recognition, and scanning behaviour further enhances the user experience. Ultimately, a user-centred approach to design leads to more successful websites.

Pin It on Pinterest