How to Use Psychology and Personalisation to Improve UX

Acquia partner Sitback Solutions joined us for a webinar to share the psychological principles that UX designers follow to create powerful websites.

Eight seconds is the average length of a human’s attention span. Once you’ve got them on your website, that’s the time you have to make an impact on visitors. 

So how can you harness evidence-based psychology principles to improve your company’s website, the user experience (UX) and your overall digital presence? 

Cynthia Tang, a registered psychologist and the Experience Design Team Lead at Sitback Solutions, shared her insights with us on our recent webinar, “Psychology and UX: Evidence-Based Techniques to Improve Customer Experience.” An Acquia Bronze-Level partner, Sitback Solutions is an Australian-based, human-centred design and development consultancy group that has helped Woolworths, Subaru, NSW Treasury, Foxtel, People’s Choice and Lifeline with their digital transformations. In this partner webinar, we spoke with Cynthia about some of the psychological principles that UX designers follow to create powerful websites.

Why UX Matters

Poor UX contributes to your users leaving and potentially never returning. UX aims to solve problems related to page conversion, abandonment rates and issues around drop-off or bouncerates. 

Cynthia explained: “When you think of your key website landing page design and also the copy on your website, make sure that you’re focusing the design and the messaging on the problems that your product solves. Note, this is not what it does.”

 Investing in UX can benefit your business by:

  • Improving conversion rates from your website
  • Boosting cross-sales
  • Increasing customer retention and engagement
  • Encouraging more return visits
  • Having customers more likely to recommend you to other users
  • Achieving more effective marketing spend on your customer acquisition
  • Reducing, in the longer term, customer support and demand on your support team
  • Ensuring your customers enjoy a more seamless online experience with a lot less friction

What Makes a Good UX?

Well, there are different layers to what makes for a good experience. First things first –  it has to be functional, reliable, usable and convenient. Ideally, an experience should also be pleasurable and meaningful, but if an interface or system is not reliable, functional or usable, it will be difficult to create a pleasurable or meaningful experience.

To ensure this, you can firstly leverage the use of heuristics and biases, which are problem-solving strategies created from an individual’s previous experiences with similar problems, in the design of your website. Heuristics and biases are two sides of the same coin. In website design and UX, you can tap into heuristics and biases to influence your user’s behaviours. 

Leveraging the use of heuristics and biases in web design allows you to create UX that:

  • Optimises for first impressions
  • Maintains greater user engagement
  • Designs for frictionless flow
  • Taps into and leverages people’s mental shortcuts
  • Influences people’s decision-making
  • Nudges people towards taking action or engaging with your website

How to Apply UX Theory to Optimise Your Website

Heuristics are not only valuable guidelines to keep UX top of mind when designing a new website, but also to systematically and quickly determine an existing website’s usability. Some of the most popular heuristics to use when evaluating an interface design are Jakob Nielsen's 10 Usability Heuristics:

  1. Visibility of system status
  2. Match between system and real world
  3. User control and freedom
  4. Consistency and standards
  5. Error prevention
  6. Recognition rather than recall
  7. Flexibility and efficiency of use
  8. Aesthetic and minimalist design
  9. Help users with errors
  10. Help and documentation

As UX practitioners, Sitback Solutions utilise these 10 heuristics to assess a website’s usability to find flaws in the interface design. They start by defining what to test, either the entire website or part of it, by understanding the web analytics and pinpointing key pages or key drop-off points. Next, they get an understanding of the website’s end users – who they are and what their goals and needs are. They then pick key tasks that the user will complete on the website and assess the pages that the user will come into contact with to assess for things that break away from the heuristics. Usability issues are then flagged according to how severe and critical they are. 


But once you have findings from the heuristic evaluation, what should you do with them? Sitback Solutions’ recommendation is to implement as many quick wins as possible and A/B test any ambiguous or contentious areas, or where there is more than one potential solution.

Another aspect of psychology that can be leveraged to improve UX is knowing how memory works. This can help create human-centered interfaces that correspond to the natural abilities of the users, save their effort and boost usability.

Cynthia explains: “Our short-term memory limitations can be improved through a process called ‘chunking.’ It’s been found that humans process information better when it’s put into small groups. We need to chunk larger or complex pieces of information into smaller chunks for clarity. Showing too much information all at once can lead to cognitive overload, which happens when we don't have enough memory capacity to process or remember things properly.”

Based on the concept of chunking, it’s also important to consider the concentration of elements on a page. In this case, it comes back to the age-old saying: “Keep it simple!”

However, with all this said, auditing your website to find flaws, developing a hypothesis to test through A/B or multivariate testing, then analysing its impact can be tricky without the right technology.

A/B Testing with Acquia Personalization 

When you’re tweaking your site for improvements and testing a hypothesis or your assumptions, you need the right technology to make this process as seamless and data-driven as possible. Sitback uses Acquia Personalization to create rich, personalised experiences with A/B testing, intuitive low-code or no-code tools and a dashboard to bring the story to life.  

Acquia Personalization helps you fail fast because in testing a hypothesis, you want to get the end result as quickly as possible so if it doesn’t work out, you can move on. And that’s what it all pivots on – the preciousness of time to userdraw your visitors into a great user experience on your website.

Learn more about creating personalised user experiences on your website through the use of psychology by watching the full webinar recording: Psychology and UX: Evidence-Based Techniques to Improve Customer Experience.

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