Cognitive Biases in UX Design (Part 2)

You may know that designers who can anticipate customer needs, preferences, habits, and goals have the power to create user-friendly apps. Yet, they can take it one step further to boost delight, increase seamless navigation, and improve metrics. Additionally, they can reduce the number of errors or flaws found during user testing. 

The secret? Anticipating and understanding cognitive biases, or how people interpret content at an extremely fast past leading to irrational conclusions. Naturally, it is critical for designers to know cognitive biases occurring in their target audience. It is also important to recognize the errors in judgment stemming from their own perceptions. 

Follow along to learn about the most common cognitive biases in UX design! In this article, you can find:

  • Confirmation Bias 
  • Anchoring Effect
  • Framing Effect
  • Von Restorff Effect/Isolation Effect
  • Bandwagon Bias

1. Confirmation Bias

The Bias:

Confirmation bias is an individual’s inclination to seek information that supports their beliefs or opinions. They may also interpret information to favor their point of view, even if there is data to support an opposite conclusion. Additionally, the lack of evidence to help a different point of view can further confirm their beliefs. This cognitive bias can affect anyone and is mainly unintentional, making it extremely difficult to catch.

In User Behavior:

UX writers may use their user’s confirmation bias in their favor; however, they must present accurate information. For instance, they can anticipate their search terms and questions (SEO) or only present information that bolsters their image or point of view.

In UX Design:

UX designers should watch out for confirmation bias amongst themselves. Checked confirmation bias can lead to better testing methods and severe misunderstandings of research data. Luckily, solutions can be easily implemented. Research questions should be open-ended rather than leading toward one option or another. Questions should also focus on current circumstances rather than future possibilities. Teams should interpret the results together, or teammates should review the analysts’ conclusions before design decisions are approved. Furthermore, user testing should be performed after implementing any design changes to confirm excellent choices. 

2. Anchoring Effect

The Bias:

The anchoring effect is an individual’s tendency to rely on initial information for decisions or judgments. Accordingly, the first information they see is an anchor. They do not consider the following information equally or take all the data into account. Surprisingly, the anchor can even work if it is entirely unrelated to the more extensive argument or picture.

In User Behavior:

Users who use a digital product will form judgments based on the initial page they see. Likewise, they will formulate decisions off the first few lines of text. Designers can take advantage of this psychological effect in many ways:

  • Ensuring advertising and marketing displays the product in the best light
  • Paying special attention to the landing page of an application or webpage
  • Placing key information near the top of the page 
  • Making information easily scannable with bolded or highlighted key phrases
  • Providing attention-grabbing navigations and calls to actions
  • Displaying user steps or instructions clearly and succinctly 
  • Listing expensive items first in an online shop 

In UX Design:

The anchoring effect can also occur amongst researchers, analysts, and designers. It is natural to look at the first few lines of data or the first data set and extract conclusions before considering the rest of the data. Likewise, researchers may hold onto original survey question orders or remember preliminary testing results when designing other testing methods. All team members must consider complete test results and keep those results independently if they are performed at different times. 

3. Framing Effect

The Bias:

The framing effect is an individual’s predisposition to decide based on what and how information is presented rather than the content itself. In other words, how the information is framed through its wording, tone, and set-up matters significantly to how people interpret it. 

In User Behavior:

UX writers must consider the framing effect when setting up a digital product. The user’s reaction or interpretation of information depends on how writers present that information. For instance, writing statistics that cater to the user can make all the difference. Individuals may prefer to see that a product helped 75% of people rather than only producing adverse effects in 25% of users. Another example is listing the benefits of a product rather than focusing on one negative aspect.

In UX Design:

Researchers and analysts must pay close attention to how they present their findings to designers and writers. Any leaning conclusions can influence UX decisions. Accordingly, all results should be written as neutrally as possible. Alternatively, providing two different framings for the results can be helpful.

4. Von Restorff Effect/Isolation Effect

The Bias:

The Von Restorff effect refers to an individual’s tendency to remember a visual stimulus that differs the most in a group of relatively similar visual stimuli. In other words, attention-grabbing information or design will affect decision-making and judgements more than other items. 

In User Behavior:

Users landing on a webpage or opening an application for the first time will be drawn quickly to the most prominent elements on the page. UX designers can use this cognitive bias by offering the most critical information in bolded letters, enforcing the brand with snippets of different languages or appealing logos, or presenting a call to action in eye-catching colors. Furthermore, they can differentiate themselves from competitors in a similar way; if they are visually unique compared to a competing brand, they may quickly generate brand awareness and recall.

In UX Design: 

The Von Restorff effect often occurs in UX design while interpreting research results. In some instances, research will showcase a number or statistic that contrasts with other findings. Analysts are more likely to remember this number, which may affect their judgment even in light of all the different results. It may be an important finding, but it may also be an anomaly, requiring further investigation.

5. Bandwagon Bias

The Bias:

The bandwagon bias refers to an individual’s gravitation towards certain attitudes, behaviors, perspectives, or judgements based on their popularity amongst others. Essentially, they will adjust their original beliefs to align with what others are thinking or doing. 

In User Behavior:

UX designers should be aware of the bandwagon effect amongst their users. They can link social media to their digital products, showcasing their popular videos or photography. They can also display social favor, showing which of their products are most popular or social proof, displaying user reviews. 

In UX Design:

UX designers can feel pressured to develop specific designs simply because it is on-trend at the moment rather than paying attention to their performance or favorability amongst users. Likewise, design teams may not consider opposing ideas amongst themselves due to ‘herd thinking.’ Encouraging alternative suggestions, going outside the immediate design group for opinions, and testing more than one design choice can be excellent ways to combat this cognitive bias.