Hacking the User Experience – Notes

“Free Notes Everyone!” is what I want to scream out loud.

Don’t wait for anything, just learn User Experience.It will change the way you think.

User experience requires a lot of things to be known to properly make evaluations and plan stuff. Some of these “things” are –

  • Human Computer Interaction
  • Human Factors
  • Cognitive Sciences
  • Behavioral Psychology
  • Experimental Psychology
  • Linguistics
  • Neuroscience

So, if anyone wanted to be a hybrid psychiatrist cum software developer cum designer, UX is the way for you!


So, definitions

User Experience – 

How a person feels using a piece of software

Customer Experience – 

How a person feels interacting with a particular brand.




So when does a user have a good experience?

  • A user has to feel happy using your product.There should not be irritating stuff there.
  • A user should feel satisfied using your product that their main objective was achieved using it.
  • A user should feel productive using the product, else it makes no sense for them to use it.

Productivity can be measured by an inverse of the friction between a user and his goal.


So mainly User Experience aims at reducing friction between the User and the users’s Objective.


Three types of friction have been mentioned in this course –

  • Cognitive Friction
  • Emotional Friction
  • Physical Friction

The course mainly targets at reducing cognitive friction,  which is caused by –

  • Needless Brain Activity
  • Conscious Activity
  • Subconscious Activity

The aim of User Experience is also to –

-> Know who the User is

->Knowing what the User needs

So, UX gives a mentality of putting the User in the center of every decision we take and also the fact that the developer is not the user.

Here are some common pitfalls that are often faced when UX is ignored –

  • Throwing Data at the User – This is not information for the user, it is data.It is difficult to process and required brain cycles.
  • Exposing Technology to the Users
  • Expecting the User to think like a Database administrator
  • Having a Messy UI – no one likes a messy UI
  • Being Inconsistent


Cognitive Biases are natural inclinations that the human mind has.It leads our thoughts away from a logical direction, so being aware of these cognitive biases is very essential.

Cognitive Biases are also to be kept in mind when designing an User Interface.These are as follows –

  • Bias Blind Spot
  • Deformation professionnelle
  • Semmelwiss Reflex
  • Bandwagon Effect
  • Confirmation Bias
  • Status Quo Bias
  • Reactance

Some myths that are busted in light of UX are – (i.e. the following have been proved false)

  • Click Counting – high number of clicks are bad
  • High whitespace is not good
  • Scrolling is evil
  • Horizontal Scrolling is Evil
  • Vertical Scrolling is no issue
  • Small Details dont matter
  • More choices are always good
  • Users makes good choices

The next parts cover certain hacks so as to improve the user experience –


The UI is broken down into simple shapes and broken down by the brain.Our brain uses a small area of what we see to properly deconstruct the shapes seen by us.

So, densely packed shapes should be avoided.

Points to be noted  –

  • Brain loves easy to see shapes
  • Central brain vision is a heavy resource
  • If the user has to scan our UI to understand it, cognitive friction is high
  • If user can break UI elements down into simple shapes, cognitive friction is low


Whitespace should be increased wherever possible as it gives the eyes a chance to rest.

Points to be noted –

  • A crowded UI makes the User use his central vision , which makes cognitive friction high.
  • Using whitespace allows users to use peripheral vision making cognitive friction low
  • Allows the brain to rest
  • Helps to focus on useful information


Elements should be grouped according to their functionality as well as content.

Some points to be noted here –

  • Have a clear border between unrelated elements
  • Make the groups appear distinct
  • The brain loves groups
  • Avoid crowded groups(from whitespace)
  • Repeating groups without sufficent visual separation can make cognitive friction high


Alignment should be towards left since most people read from left to right.

Alignment of horizontal and vertical cases should also be considered.


When some button clicks/event changes some value, there should be a mechanism to guide the users attention towards that.

points to be noted –

  • Movement in the peripheral vision is powerful
  • It should be used wisely as it immediately captures attention.
  • If focus is needed
    • Movement in peripheral vision will distract
    • UI should be kept calm
  • If users attention is needed
    • Movement in the peripheral vision will attract
    • Use movement to get user’s attention


Dont use hard color combinations.


There are a few techniques that can be used to improve the user experience –


This is used to reduce cognitive friction by leading the user towards a goal

The techniques involved are –

  • Instructional Texts
  • On boarding Overlaps
  • Wizards


Progressive Disclosure

This is showing the user what he needs to see, only when he needs to see it.

Too much information is bad for user experience.


Show the current status of processing to the user.Make use of progress bars etc.This will provide comfort to impatient users.100


  • Recalling is a heavy cognitive process
  • Rocognition is much better
  • Icons and visual information can be easily recognised
  • Avoid using abstract codes to find things

Recommended Reading

100 Things a designer needs to know about people

Designing with the mind in mind

Dont make me think





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