Human mind and usability: How to use the way we perceive the world in UX design

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10 min

Design is all around us - in everyday items, from mugs to computers, from a weather app to RSI software. The list is endless. How does it all come together? Why do we love using some software and get frustrated by others? What do designers do to make using something enjoyable?

We sat down with Giedrė Kazlauskaitė, Interactio UX Designer who works on the Interpreter Team, to talk about design in everyday life and how she co-creates the Interactio interpreter console with lessons from the human mind. 

How do you investigate and analyze what interpreters like and don’t like? 

In simple words, what we do is we talk with the interpreters who use the console, we listen, and, on top of that, we also observe. With all this data, we build the interpreter’s holistic journey to see how they view and use the interpreter console. 

What else do we do? We try to walk in the interpreter’s shoes, as we say. With the Interpreter Team, we log in to the platform and try to interpret with our own product for each other, to see and try the new features first-hand. 

By trying to interpret, we notice the small things, for example, whether we spot the notification that someone wants to hand over now. If we get it when designing the console, will the interpreters get it when using it in real-life situations? It’s fun for us to learn this way.

How do you use the collected data to design our console better?

We also develop prototypes - clickable interfaces that we then place in front of the interpreters and give them a task; for example, we ask them to hand over. Then, we see if our perception of handover matches theirs and whether the console’s design plays into that perception. 

If we design a button, like a volume change for the relay language, we show that new button to the interpreters and ask, “What do you think this button does?” Instead of telling them what happens, we listen and see if they intuitively recognize the function, and then we know whether it was intuitive or not. If they were expecting something different, we talk again and redesign the buttons based on their feedback. 

I am a big fan of qualitative data, where you give a task to users (interpreters) and ask what they expect to happen if they press one button or the other. That’s very important in design - testing what people think, not guessing. 

As designers (and we are with the product every day, 24/7), when we close the laptop,  we still think about it. Which is why when you sit in front of the finished product, it’s easy to use, and it feels like “Yeah, I know how it works!” because you’re the one who put it all together and know every tiny detail about the interface.

However, the results might be completely different when you show the product to the users for the first time. 

There are two versions of the console, and the last one (EU) was made after conducting user research. Why do interpreters like it more? 

We heard the feedback and redesigned the console accordingly. 

I’ll give an example: we heard from the interpreters that they would like to control the volume of relay languages. We did that! First, we brainstormed how that might look, and then we needed to know if it was intuitive for the interpreters. 

At that point, we gave them the task and observed if they intuitively knew how to change the volume without us training and telling them what to do. I think that this console is much more intuitive because we were trying our best to test before the actual development.  

We also clearly prioritized the three most important areas: video, language control bar, and communication, like chat. Our goal was to make sure that those three do not interfere with each other. When you added more languages in previous consoles, the video would get narrower. Now, you can have a more complex language bar, and it doesn’t change a thing in the way the video is displayed. 

The EU console is generally much more intuitive and the interpreters have the flexibility and freedom to work with it the way they like.  

How did we manage to use user research as a vehicle to perfect our product?

In simple terms: we test everything! Buttons, icons, layouts - we get people’s feedback through interviews, usability testing, surveys, and research. We go through that process with every single feature.

We talk to interpreters to get their opinions and preferences, but, most importantly, we also observe. What people say and do might be different things, so it’s crucial for designers to observe and collaborate with the users to see how they respond to design in real-life situations. 

Designers need a lot of inspiration to create. How do you use the way humans perceive the world as your guiding principle in UX design?

One of my favorite questions! I believe that products should be designed in the way people behave, not how we want them to behave. We observe what people can do and cannot do with our product, and that’s one of the biggest inspirations for UX designers. 

We base most of our decisions on human psychology and the way people think. 

As an example, human memory is very limited, especially short-term memory, so we use that for information architecture: we simplify the elements as much as possible to optimize how much information people can recall. 

We also know it’s easier to recognize than recall things, so we try to minimize information, leave clues, give context so that the user can recognize actions rather than remember them. 

There’s a proximity law in psychology - people tend to group objects that are next to each other. Considering that, we carefully look at the way we place elements and their order. We know that people remember the first and the last thing, so we also employ this knowledge to place content and components most effectively. 

It’s tiny bits of the human mind that help UX designers to make user-friendly products. 

What practical lessons can designers take from everyday life?

I always say that everything around us is a design. From your computer to a mug on your table - it’s all designed by someone. Many people think that designers gain knowledge in school and somehow apply it when working, but actually, we never stop learning and getting inspired by common items around us. Again, we observe how people behave in daily life, and that’s mainly where the inspiration comes from. 

If I have a task, I go outside and see how people do things, how I do things. I remember I had to create a poster for an event that focused on failures at work. I was thinking to myself, “I don’t want to go through some very difficult failure, I want something that people can relate to!” 

So I stepped back, carrying that idea for a few days. One day, I was just making a sandwich for myself, and it dropped with the butter-side down on the floor. I took a picture and sent it to my friend, saying, “My day is a failure; even the sandwich goes upside down!” My friend replied, saying that she could relate a lot. 

It was such a simple failure, a common everyday thing, but the final version of the poster included that picture of a sandwich! It was very successful because people looked at it and smiled: Yeah, been there, done that...

The most helpful thing to get inspiration is to be very attentive to the things around you and the way you respond to them. Why do you push the doors that say “Pull”? Why do you always get frustrated when logging into that app? 

If you reach a dead-end, close your computer and go to the city center - look at the people, get into their shoes, and maybe that sandwich will fall on the floor, but you’ll think: Oh, that’s a great idea! 


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Published on

Dec 10, 2021

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Giedrė Kazlauskaitė

UX Designer at Interactio

Giedrė has always been in a creative design field, focusing on UX for the last 5 years. Having joined Interactio in December 2020, she puts UX research, the human mind, and usability at the center of her work. She is passionate about making solutions speak a more human language.