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The Intersection of Psychology and UX: Exploring Behavioral Design

The Intersection of Psychology and UX: Exploring Behavioral Design
Exon Nkemchor
•  19.04.2024
If you want to stay ahead of the curve in this ever-changing digital landscape then consider exploring behavioral design. In a world with fierce competition and educated users, getting a deeper understanding of human behavior and its mechanisms is critical in creating meaningful user experiences. Keep reading to learn how you can leverage this knowledge to create addictive products and services.

Behavioral design is the intersection of psychology and UX. By incorporating principles of behavioral design into their interfaces, designers have a unique opportunity to leverage human psychology. This enables them to create engaging experiences and highly sought-after products or services that resonate with users on a deeper level.

In this article, we have collated everything you need to know about behavior design, its main principles as well as actionable applications of behavioral design techniques so that you can hit the ground running.

What is behavioral design?

Behavioral design is an approach to design that leverages aspects of human psychology particularly around shaping human behavior or driving decision-making. By leveraging basic psychological principles, the main purpose of behavioral design is to create meaningful and seamless experiences for the users. Similarly, gently lead them toward desired actions.

Behavioral design draws from principles in cognitive and social psychology, behavioral economics, design, and technology. It leverages human behavior mechanisms and puts them into practice in the form of design for digital products or services. With the combination of those fields, behavioral design offers a comprehensive approach to creating addictive products that users will come back from more.

Behavioral Design

UX Design


Get an understanding of basic psychological principles to shape behavior and influence human action through design.

Craft easy-to-use and meaningful experiences through design.


Leveraging psychological principles, such as cognitive biases, habit formation, and social influence, to craft interfaces that guide users toward a desired action.

Leveraging usability principles and heuristics to create seamless user experiences by creating prototypes and testing them with real users.



Duolingo is an educational app that leverages gamification techniques and a rewards system to motivate users to use the app daily.

On the same example, UX designers and researchers at the Duolingo team are conducting user research to better understand if the interfaces of the app are intuitive and easy to use and update the interface accordingly.

Why Is Behavioral Design Necessary for Better UX?

Behavioral design is a necessity for better UX as it provides invaluable insights into human behavior. These insights are crucial in creating meaningful and engaging user experiences that resonate with the users. Here are some of the key reasons why behavioral design is so important in enhancing the UX of a product or service:

💛 Understanding User Motivations

Behavioral design offers UX designers a unique opportunity to deep-dive into the intrinsic and extrinsic motivations of the users. This helps them better understand what they desire and what they aim at. By pinpointing those drivers, designers can craft tailor-made product experiences that are fully aligned with the motivations of their users. This not only boosts satisfaction but also engagement.

💛 Leading User Behavior

Behavioral design provides UX designers with a unique toolkit of techniques. These techniques are used to guide user behavior toward desired actions on an interface or a system. Leveraging psychological principles designers can encourage users to take or not an action in line with the needs and goals of the business. This can lead to enhanced conversion rates.

💛 Creating Addictive Experiences

By tapping into behavioral design, UX designers can deploy techniques that make their design more persuasive. In this way, they craft addictive experiences. For instance, a designer might go down the gamification route to create a highly addictive app experience. This approach leads users through desired actions. On the other hand, an e-commerce company might use the scarcity technique to create a sense of urgency. This persuasation tactic aims to encourage the user to buy a product.

behavioral desgin

💛 Fostering Habit Formation

Behavioral design can help UX designers uncover patterns in human behavior and in the decision-making process. UX designers can then deploy strategies to foster change or create habits that align with the goals of the system. Consequently, this alignment with the system’s goals also supports the business’s goals, leading to greater user adoption and product loyalty.

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How to Apply Behavioural Design Technique?

Here are 8 behavioral design techniques hot from the over to incorporate in your design and reap the above-mentioned benefits:

CTAs (Call-to-Actions)

Call-to-actions are design elements that prompt users to take a specific action or engage with the system in a certain way. In behavioral design, CTAs are strategically designed to stick out from the rest of the design. On top of that, the language used is highly persuasive creating a sense of urgency, encouraging the user to act now!

📌 Example of CTAs

On an e-commerce website like Asos.com, the CTAs might say ‘ Shop Now’ or ‘Limited offer’ to create a sense of urgency and prompt the user to purchase something immediately.

Behavioral design

CTA button on Asos, Source

Feedback Loops

Feedback loops are elements that provide users with immediate feedback on their actions. Feedback loops help users understand the effect that their actions had, encouraging or discouraging in this way certain behaviors. A successful feedback loop needs to be informative and most importantly timely.

📌 Example of Feedback Loops

Apps like Apple’s Habit Tracker, present the user with a reward right after a goal has been completed, creating a feedback loop that motivates the user to complete their daily goals and thus engage more with the app.


Gamification is another excellent technique where game elements are deployed into other contexts to engage users. Behavioral design uses gamification elements to keep users excited and engaged creating a sense of competition.

📌 Example of Gamification

Duolingo, one of the most popular language learning apps uses points and leaderboards to gamify the language learning process and create a sense of progress and accomplishment that boosts users’ morale and encourages engagement.

Behavioral design

Duolingo’s Language Learning System, Source

Social Proof

Social proof is another key technique in behavioral design. By adding testimonials and user reviews on prominent parts of the website, behavioral designers can leverage social psychology to encourage users to purchase a product or use their services.

📌 Example of Social Proof

A great example of the use of social proof is Airbnb as reviews of the users and the badges that are awarded to the listed homes, like for instance ‘ Super Host’ or ‘Rare Find’ based on those reviews create a sense of trust that urges the user to book their stay with Airbnb.

Default Options

A default option is yet another behavioral design technique whereby users are given a pre-selected option instead of being asked to actively select an option. Behavioral designers deploy this technique to influence decision-making. A common example is the ‘Opt-in’ and ‘Opt-out’ options for marketing communication that occurs usually while completing the online purchase of a product. The default option is usually set at the ‘Opt-in’ option to encourage people to receive marketing communications from the company.


Creating a sense of urgency and scarcity is another behavioral design technique worth incorporating into your designs. Using copy or design elements that stress the limited availability of a product or a time-sensitive offer, behavioral designers use scarcity to urge users to take action and avoid the fear of missing out (FOMO).

📌 Example of Scarcity

Easyjet, the British airline company uses scarcity by highlighting with microcopy the limited seat availability on flights urging users to book now and avoid disappointment.


Personalization is all about creating tailor-made experiences based on the users’ preferences. By understanding and leveraging human behavior and the motivations surrounding this behavior, behavioral design uses personalization. This personaliztion craft experiences that resonate with the users on a more personal level.

📌 Example of Personalization

Netflix is an excellent example of personalized content as the platform recommends and presents content based on the viewer’s preferences and past choices of films.

Behavioral design

A page of personalized Netflix TV shows, Source


Finally, nudges are another applicable behavior design tactic that can have a great impact on your designs. A nudge will usually take the form of a microcopy that gives some additional information that might influence people’s behavior in predictable ways.

📌 Example of Nudges

The American ice cream brand Halo Top is a great example of the application of this technique as it uses labeling such as ‘lower calories’, and ‘higher protein’ on their ice cream tubes to influence users to buy and eat more ice cream guilt-free!

In a nutshell

In this ever-changing digital landscape, harnessing the power of behavior design is more important than ever. It supports product designers’ efforts to create experiences that are centered around the user. Behavioral design provides product designers with an excellent framework to integrate psychological insights into UX design. This helps create interfaces that not only meet the needs and expectations of the users but also guide them toward certain desired behaviors.

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FAQ: Behavioral Design

What is an example of behavioral design?

A common example is the ‘opt-in’ and ‘opt-out’ options for marketing communication that occurs usually while completing the online purchase of a product. The default option is usually set at the ‘Opt-in’ option to encourage people to receive marketing communications leveraging the principle of inertia according to which people will usually stick to the default option that is given to them.

What is the behavioral design technique?

Nudges are a behavior design technique that provides the user with some additional information that might influence their behavior in predictable ways. This technique leverages our tendency to look to others for guidance in unknown situations.

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