UX and UI design involves a degree of creativity. Still, as every student and professional knows, it relies on scientific, mathematical, and psychological understanding. Unlike art, the user should not be left to interpret your design and architecture. Rather, you must anticipate how they perceive and interpret your work before creating it. This way, you can develop digital products that appeal to your customers.
Designers adopt many theories of human perception to understand their users better. One of the most popular is Gestalt Psychology or the Gestalt Principles. These laws describe how humans see information and images, organize or group elements, recognize patterns, and simplify complexities for faster comprehension. As a UX designer, Gestalt knowledge can help you develop structure, place elements, and organize content in a noticeable, intuitive, clear, and coherent way. Ultimately, it can help designers elevate their work beyond the basic or average.
Ready to learn the Gestalt Principles? Learn about the 10 most important laws below and how they can inspire better UX design.
1. The Law of Proximity
People assume they are related or linked when they come across things that are placed close together. Alternatively, they assume they are unrelated or dissimilar when they view items that are placed far apart.
In UX Design: UX designers regularly use the law of proximity in their digital products. They cluster elements into a noticeable group when they want users to consume the content simultaneously and view it as a single entity or process. For instance, designers place labels directly next to data cells to ensure users understand what they should type into the data cell (ex. First Name).
2. The Law of Similarity
Suppose some elements are similar to each other (color, shape, size, font, etc). In that case, people believe they have a similar trait (function, use, etc). They group them together in their minds, even if they are physically far apart.
In UX Design: The law of similarity allows users to distinguish between different texts, labels, cells, buttons, and links. For instance, designers may use similar colors and sizes for all labels and cells. However, use a different color for the ‘Submit’ button to ensure users are drawn to the particular end-process function.
3. The Law of Closure
In many cases, visual arrangements are incomplete due to artistic choices. The human brain prefers complete images, filling in the missing visual information from memory or experience. As a result, the person perceives coherent content.
In UX Design: Many graphic designers use the law of closure to create interesting images or logos. UX designers may use the law of closure to encourage engagement or interaction. Designers may ensure a half-image or half-text is visible on a page so that users continue scrolling. The user cannot view the page as complete at first glance since they need more visual information.
4. The Law of Figure-Ground
People tend to isolate objects as being in the foreground (near to them) or the background (far from them). Then, they focus on the things directly in front of them (the figure) or closest to them first. After, they evaluate the objects in the back (the ground).
In UX Design: One of the most prominent examples of the law of figure ground in action is the standard web page pop-up. The pop-up window stands out while the background images become blurry or fuzzy, so the human eye focuses on it first. Many designers also use this principle when creating navigation, chat services, or helpful dialogues.
5. The Law of Simplicity
People can understand even the most complex visual information because they perceive it in the simplest way possible. For instance, even when a shape may be made up of multiple smaller forms, humans may still notice the overall, simple shape first.
In UX Design: When designers understand the law of simplicity, they do not waste time trying to create complex, unique visual content. They focus on portraying what truly matters in the simplest way possible and integrating vivid details only for emphasis. In this manner, they guarantee their users a smoother, faster experience.
6. The Law of Continuity
The human eye prefers smooth and seamless lines or curves, interpreting any line continuations or overlaps as part of a whole rather than distinct. In the same way, the brain understands any content along a line or a curve as being related. It continues to understand this until it encounters a distinct interruption such as a clear space between lines or a bold contrast.
In UX Design: Designers frequently employ the law of continuity to create intuitive navigation on their web pages or digital products. For instance, they organize primary navigation in one continuous line, allowing users to interpret this as a group.
7. The Law of Enclosure
The law of enclosure is similar to the law of proximity. When people experience elements placed within a particular, enclosed area, they perceive them as a group of similar or related items.
In UX Design: This gestalt principle helps create seamless digital product designs. Architects and designers can use the law of enclosure for eye-catching navigation boxes. They place a label and a short call to action within these boxes. They can also use it to indicate distinct steps in a particular process, separating information in an organized, fluid manner.
8. The Law of Common Fate
The law of common fate is similar to the law of continuity. It acknowledges that humans perceive objects moving in the same directions as more related than objects on different trajectories.
In UX Design: This rule is excellent for helping users understand the features or details of a particular item. Designers or content creators can create bulleted lists, allowing users to scan and consume information easily. They may also apply the law when they make videos, animations, or other visual effects describing steps or processes. The flow adds to an intuitive experience for their users.
9. The Law of Symmetry
People find symmetric designs and structures more attractive and appealing than asymmetric ones. Instinctively, they interpret aspects such as stability, consistency, order, logic, and organization from symmetry.
In UX Design: Designers should not strive to make every element perfectly symmetrical; however, they should keep it in mind when looking at a page as a whole. Designers can use background elements or colors to pull a page together.
10. The Law of Focal Point
If people gaze upon an image, their eyes automatically look toward the most dramatic or stand-out element first. Then, they notice the less imposing articles.
In UX Design: Bright colors, bold images, unique texts, or highlighted regions pull a user’s attention at first glance. Designers often apply the law of focal point when generating brand awareness, designing calls to action, emphasizing keywords, or creating warnings.