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A Review of:
“100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People”

Susan M. Weinschenk, Ph.D.

Why is ‘100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People’ by Susan M. Weinschenk, Ph.D. relevant to UX design? Susan M. Weinschenk expertly links the psychology and science of the human mind with the tried and true principles of design.  According to Weinschenk, design is deeply rooted in psychology and human behaviour. Beyond making things pretty, good design is about functionality, accessibility and usability. Understanding a user’s psychology will make creating a usable experience intuitive and straight forward.

In ‘100 Things’ each topic is discussed from the perspective of the user, focusing on how their psychology plays a part in their actions. Understanding the psychology behind a user’s actions can inform design decisions and impact the user experience.  Beyond the content of the book I was particularly impacted by the actual user experience of reading this book. Weinschenk has crafted an exceptionally usable, consistent and engaging book.

Each section within the book has a highlighted number in the top left corner, allowing the user to track their progress. Each item is given a clear, short and simple heading that describes the topic to be discussed. Following the heading is a brief discussion of the specific point, including visuals when needed. The final section for each point is a takeaways section.and when needed, important details are highlighted in colour. As a reader, I became used to the format early on and began anticipating the flow. Weinschenk not only wrote the book on 100 design ideas, she put them into practice.  As mentioned, Weinschenk divides her book into 100 topics to be discussed These topics are further grouped into 3 main categories.

How people think

Weinschenk does a masterful job of putting the reader into the mind of the user.  As designers, we all know the heuristics and rules of thumb that tell us how a user will interact with content.  Weinschenk takes this one step further and opens up many more areas of discussion.  I had not realized just how much a user’s mind will wander or how little one person can focus on at a time.  The psychology behind decisions that users make will help me in future design concepts.

How people see

As an artist, I was unaware that when people imagine or draw an object, they tend to picture the objects from a slight angle above and tilted. Yes, when I draw and doodle I use this angle a great deal but, I had no idea this was a universal view. Weinschenk also discusses sight based on diversity and disability. These elements can greatly impact how a design is interpreted. Culturally, we tend to interpret colours in very different ways. Keeping the demographic and target audience in mind when designing is important. I have also come to realize that my love affair with low contrast will not be usable by those with disabilities. It may seem pretty to me but if it is not usable or accessible it will fail as a design.

How people feel

The impact of storytelling and anecdotes on how people digest content is noteworthy. Weinschenk directly correlates the ability to tell a great story with the ability to engage users’. As a UX professional a focus on telling interactive and engaging stories will aid users with their journey. People want to relate to one another; stories give us that access.

The greatest asset of this book is the ability of Weinschenk to take a fact, whether it be psychology or science, and directly show how it should impact design decision. In each section and for each of the 100 tidbits discussed the final part of the page is a section titled ‘takeaways’. Within this section Weinschenk takes the particular fact that is being discussed and turns it around with a creative solution. The ‘takeaways’ became my favourite part of the book as I tried to guess at what she might suggest. Weinschenk encouraged me to look at problems through a different lens, not so much as problems but as opportunities for engagement.