9 Behavioural patterns for interactive design

interactive design patterns

Behavioural, interactive design patterns describe the cognition and behaviour related to interface design [1]. Understanding them will get you one step towards creating easy-to-use UIs.

Patterns of human-computer interaction

UX patterns are not about establishing demographics or psychographics. Instead, they are about common behaviour of users. More specifically, their: tasks, goals and interaction. In addition, this behaviour builds the basis for designing efficient interface design elements.

Note: Research can help you apply these behaviour patterns to your application. In other words, use methods like focus groups, observation and user testing to ensure you’re on the right track. [2]


9 Behavioural patterns for interactive design

1. Safe exploration

User goal: exploring an interface without suffering consequences.


Firstly, allow people to explore an interface without immediately suffering consequences such as unwanted, published content. As a result of safe exploration, users will feel more positive about the application.


More about safe exploration.

Safe exploration UX

2. Instant gratification

User goal: seeing immediate results from their actions.


Instant gratification is about providing value quickly. By providing clear visual guidance users can achieve small successes fast. This success can be anything along the way of achieving your users ultimate goal.


How to utilize instant gratification in UX design? Continue reading.


3. Satisficing

User goal: efficient decision making.


Satisficing is a decision-making strategy commonly known in economics. However, the behavioural aspects also apply in UX. To clarify, it refers to a user aiming “for a satisfactory or adequate result, rather than the optimal solution.” [3]


How to utilize satisficing in UX design? Continue reading.


4. Spacial memory

User goal: finding solutions/tools/actions in a familiar place.


In general, people remember where things are more easily than what they’re named. For instance, putting the close or save button in a common place helps people find them.


How to utilize spacial memory in UX design? Continue reading.

Spacial Memory UX

5. Habituation

User goal: people will try to solve problems with the tools they already know.


Users spend most of their time in other applications. However, they will attempt to use the tools (e.g. keyboard short cuts) in your app, that they already know from others.


How to use habituation in UX design? Continue reading.


6. Deferred choices

User goal: reducing friction towards achieving the actual goal.


Sometimes people don’t want to answer questions immediately. Often, because it’s not relevant for reaching their goal. Besides, they might not have enough information to make a decision. Allow them to skip as many upfront choices as possible to reduce friction.


How to adjust for deferred choices? Continue reading.


7. Changes in mid-stream

User goal: dealing with distraction or taking a short break. [4]


People get sidetracked or consciously switch tasks when doing something. For instance, someone might just walk into the room asking for advice. UIs can support reentrance into a task by enabling users to pick up where they left off.


How to support changes in mid-stream? Continue reading.

Changes in mid stream UX

8. Prospective memory

User goal: find information/be reminded of information at a later point in time.


People often arrange information to find it again at a later point. For instance, by leaving a book next to the door to take it somewhere later. Or, by marking an email to respond to it later. Most importantly, this behaviour also applies to applications. For instance, design to enable virtual sticky notes, annotations or notifications.


How to enable prospective memory? Continue reading.


9. Streamlined repetition

User goal: reducing unnecessary effort.


If your users repeatedly need to do the same tasks, make them as easy as possible. Ideally, streamline them into a single button click or stroke. Especially business internal apps can be filled with a maze of clicks to reach daily tasks. For example, changing customer information, creating orders, etc.


How to streamline repetitive tasks? Continue reading.


Utilize common behaviour

Knowledge about user behavioural patterns is going to build a great basis for designing your apps’ UX. In addition to these concepts, you’ll want to research:


  • Firstly, the skill and knowledge of your audience.
  • Secondly, what your users are trying to do.
  • Further, what context your users act in.


Finally, don’t be shy to look at popular applications, websites and tools for guidance!