Tag Archives: psychology

Susan Weinschenk’s 100 Things You Need to Know About People Books

Designer book cover

Three years ago, I highly rated Susan Weinschenk‘s book Neuro Web Design, which explained how to apply psychology principles to web design and build websites that are more appealing, easier to use and more memorable. Susan has written two more books that continue to apply psychology to technology and appeal to designers and presenters. Both follow a similar format: 100 Things Every ____ Needs to Know About People, with 100 ideas grounded in psychology and applicable to designers’ and presenters’ projects.

As with Neuro Web Design, both 100 Things books are well-researched. Susan has a deep knowledge of various studies and psychological findings and explains them without being too technical. The studies are also quite interesting and revealing in themselves, and I liked reading those before anything else. The book designer also did a good job building charts when needed to illustrate psychological concepts. The rest of the books’ design is colorful, incorporates useful sidebars, and provides a “takeaways” callout at the end of each section to communicate the most essential points.

Presenter book cover

Susan also does a good job connecting psychological truisms with scenarios in the design and presentation worlds. The “completeness” ratings you see on online profiles—such as a LinkedIn or Dropbox account—plays into the fact that “people are more motivated as they get closer to a goal.” “People read in a certain direction,” so be sure to stand beside your presentation so you can be the point of entry in how attendees “read” the stage. Rule 18 in the designer’s book—”People read faster with a longer line length, but prefer a shorter line length”—even explains the differences between text on a webpage and text in print, and it’s all based on recent research. These books are based on evidence and tied directly to our industries.

However, Susan doesn’t always do a good job connecting the rules specifically to the designer’s or presenter’s world and some don’t apply to our work as well as others. “People can be in a flow state” and work with focused attention, but this applies to any work—not just designers’ work. Same thing with “people can’t multitask.” I think the book for presenters is more focused on aspects of presentation than the designers’ book is focused on design. Ultimately, I think every point Susan makes is useful but some are more useful than others.

Still, both books are great material and a good value. Designers and presenters sometimes build their products by the book and don’t always think about why some approaches might work better than others. Susan’s books help you understand the “why.”

100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know about People
100 Things Every Presenter Needs to Know about People

Susan Weinschenk, Ph.D.
Published by New Riders
US $34.99 for Presenters, US $29.99 for Designers
Rating: 9/10
Buy Designer and Presenter from Amazon.com

BOOK REVIEW: Neuro Web Design

Neuro Web Design cover
Neuro Web Design cover

Very few web design books I’ve seen explore the intersection of web design and psychology, which is why Neuro Web Design by Dr. Susan Weinschenk is such an interesting read. The book is not about usability or how people interact with websites; rather, it’s about why people interact with websites in terms of basic rational and emotional impulses. The book’s subtitle, “What makes them click?”, sums it up nicely.

Steeped in research

Neuro Web Design reads a lot like a textbook, citing various psychological studies that support a variety of observations such as:

  • Human beings’ need to reciprocate when they feel indebted,
  • Social validation as pressure to belong,
  • The self-centeredness of individuals,
  • If something seems unavailable, people want it even more,
  • Too many choices actually make things difficult for the chooser, and
  • The unconscious mind processes information as stories and pictures.

There are several more observations, but I won’t reveal all of this book’s insights. Each chapter focuses on one particular observation or rule, cites studies that illustrate how these rules operate in the real world, and then apply the rules to examples of websites. The idea is to control websites’ users’ behavior by taking advantage of the impulses we naturally share. It’s excellent material and I really got involved in reading this book, mostly because I’ve never read anything like it before. Usability books such as Steve Krug’s Don’t Make Me Think come close, but Neuro Web Design is more about natural impulses and less about usability.

Almost a book for website planners

My one criticism of Neuro Web Design is that there isn’t as much attention paid to web design as I would like. The majority of pages are devoted to the psychological material and in some chapters only a couple pages are used to apply the material to the field of web design.

Also, even though “web design” is discussed there is actually very little coverage of real design matters such as layout, color and typography. Neuro Web Design covers matters of web architecture, such as why it’s important to have product reviews (because people will want to do what others do) or try to sell fully loaded products first (because people fear losing anything). Such matters are on a different level of web design, and some web designers actually get little or no say at this stage of development—such things are sometimes decided upon by sales and marketing managers.

Conclusion

Neuro Web Design is an important book for any web designer’s bookshelf, and I think it applies to design in general as well. That’s partly because there is not a lot of web design-specific material in the book, which is a shame—this 150-page book could have really benefitted from 50 more pages about web design. If Dr.Weinschenk were to partner with a A-list web designer and produce a second edition of this book, I think it would be a classic.

Neuro Web Design
Dr. Susan Weinschenk
Published by New Riders
Rating: 9/10
US$24.99