Book – 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People

100-thingsExcellent book!  I would definitely included every marketer into the target audience – as marketers review the design…  and need to understand as much about people (and not only their managers 😉 ) as possible.

I was fortunate to attend one of Susan’s lectures – she is an excellent speaker!

Many of the recommendations are unknown to designers and marketers, but some are completely obvious…  and often ignored 😉

  • If you want users to concentrate on a certain part of the screen, don’t put animation or blinking elements in their peripheral vision
  • 2D importance (maybe recent move to “flat design” can be explain by this phenomenon?)  The eyes communicate what they see to the brain as a 2D object.  3D representations on the screen may actually slow down recognition and comprehension.
  • cupPeople imagine objects tiled and at a slight angle above.  Use this approach for needed icons, etc.
  • Screen reading: after a first glance at a screen, people move in their culture’s normal reading pattern (left to right, right to left, top to bottom).
  • Affordance – a cue on how the object “supposed to work” – pull or push, handles, buttons, etc.  The objects should be easy to see, easy to find, and have clear affordances.
  • Eye-tracking studies can be misleading (they can show what people looked at but not paid attention to).
  • Different cultures (and audiences) can perceive color differently.
    • US: orange makes people agitated, they won’t stay long (fast food restaurant color)
    • US: browns and blues are soothing (color used in bars)
    • However, the color won’t have an effect if the person is looking at a computer screen, the person should be surrounded by color in a room

Below image represents meaning of color in different cultures


  • serifFonts: there is no difference in reading speed, comprehension or preference between serif and sans serif
  • Fonts: if text is hard to read – the difficulty of reading will be transferred to the meaning of the text itself or the process described
  • Fonts: all caps are less prevalent; as a result, people read them not that fast as usual text
  • Fonts: if the font at you web site is very small, and people are squinting and frowning to read it, that may actually prevent them from feeling happy or friendly and that may affect an action you want them to take.  (The act of making physical changes of the face promotes the emotion close to that change).
  • People are able to remember no more than 4 items (7 +-2 is an “urban legend”)
    • It is possible to give people more information if the information is group and chunk
  • People process information better in bite-size chunks.  People will not noticed that they are clicking more (clicking is acceptable).  Think “progressive disclosure,” don’t count clicks.
  • The more uncertain people are, the more they defend their ideas 🙂
  • People use mental models (guess how a tool or device could function) – the mental models are different between different people; it is important to research prevalent mental models of the target audience.
  • Design the conceptual model purposefully.  Don’t let it “bubble up” from the technology.
  • Stories can be inserted anywhere, including company’s annual report (Medtronic does that)
  • People are driven to create categories (starting from about age 7).  If there is a lot of information and it is not in categories, people will feel overwhelmed and try to organize the information on their own.
  • People from different cultures respond differently to images and web site designs. In East Asia people notice and remember the background and context more than people in the West do.
  • Signal Detection Theory: your senses may perceive a stimulus, but that does not mean that you are paying attention to it.  How to use the theory:
    • If false alarm is worse, tone down a system (cancer detection x-ray system can de-emphasize positives, as false positive is worse)
    • If a miss is worse, make the signal stronger (traffic controller interface should assure that all planes as quickly detected as possible
  • People are more motivated as they get closer to the goal:
    • a loyalty card promising a free coffee after 10 purchases will be more effective if it will have 12 boxes and 2 of them already stamped, rather than 10 boxes and none of them stamped
  • People are more motivated to compete when there are fewer competitors; showing more than 10 competitors can dampen the motivation to compete
  • Don’t underestimate the power of watching someone else do something.  If you want to influence someone’s behavior, then show someone else doing the same task.
  • When you are designing a product that has social connections built in or implied, think about where those interactions are for strong or weak ties.
  • People are “programmed” to pay special attention to friends and relatives.  Social media around friends and relatives will be more motivating and gather more loyalty.
  • naturePastoral scenes make people happy 🙂
  • People will do a task rather than be idle, but the task has to be seen as worthwhile.  If people perceive it to be busywork, then they prefer to stay idle.
  • Web site design is important for perception if the site is trustworthy:
    • People make quick decisions about what is not trustworthy.  So they reject a web site first, and then decide after that whether or not to actually trust it.
    • If web site makes it through the first rejection cut, then content and credibility become the determining factors as to whether the person trusts the site.
  • If you are designing an interface where people are planning something in the future (taking a trip, etc.) they will have more positive feelings about the experience the longer you can draw out the planning phase.
  • People want what is familiar when they are sad or scared
    • Messages of fear or loss may be more persuasive if your brand is an established one
    • Messages of fun and happiness may be more persuasive if your brand is a new one
  • People think choice equals control
  • Time v. Money
    • If your audience is influenced by prestige and possessions, mention money
    • Most people most of the time are more influenced by time and experiences that produce a personal connection than money and possessions