YAPC Europe: The neuroscience beyond the usability
One of the fields that can be successfully applied to usability testing is neuroscience, which can be used in conducting long-term analyses on what a website’s usability would pose. I will explain how the human brain is implicated in each process used in usability.
– J O H N N Y A P P L E S E E D ( A M E R I C A N N E U R O L O G I S T )
“Neuroscience is by far the most exciting branch
of science because the brain is the most
fascinating object in the Universe. Every human
brain is different - the brain makes each human
unique and defines who he or she is.”
– D R . S U Z A N A H E R C U L A N O - H O U Z E L
“We found that on average the human brain has
86bn neurones [nerve cell that is the basic building
block of the nervous system]. And not one [of the
brains] that we looked at so far has the 100bn."
H O W D O Y O U T H I N K
T H E B R A I N W O R K S ?
H AV I N G PAT T E R N S
• both on Web and day by day, the human brain tries to
predict the future (of an activity) based on memory
• patterns activate predictions and stimulates neurones
(e.g. stimulates dopamine or happiness hormone, one
of the main neurotransmitters).
• e.g. use grouping and white space.
L E T T H E M C H O O S E
• The Paradox of Choice: why more is less.
• too many options (for activities) for choosing activity
create ‘noise’ in the brain, that is mentally
• e.g. 1: user activities: it’s necessary an ‘undo’ option
or a pop-up to signal the activity the user will make.
• e.g. 2: user choosing: personalisation/
customisation for different type of users/activities/
AT T E N T I O N & L E A R N I N G
• prefrontal cortex: not paying attention to unnecessary
information —> cortical flaw has been exacerbated by
modernity —> too much information.
• working memory has limits —> to not have too many
elements to remember on page (5-6 major elements).
R E A D I N G P R O C E S S
• language, text processing skills and abilities are
governed (for almost 97% of people) by the brain’s left
• the brain is “programmed” to brea the words into
letters —> shapes —> patterns —> think in pictures.
• e.g. a reason to choose the left alignment of your
information (not applied for cultural impact).
V I S U A L E L E M E N T S
• 24 basic shapes (Irving Bierderman) —> identify
• the eyes communicate to brain what they see in 2D
• 3D elements are slowing down the recognition
process and even the comprehension.
• visual cortex: do not use decorative fonts, because it’s
harder for the brain to find shapes in them.
C U LT U R A L A D A P TAT I O N
• making usability for multiple cultures and geographical
regions needs research of cultural impact.
• e.g. MRI (study by Sharon Begle):
• Asians: areas that process figure-ground
relations-holistic context (background and
context in a Website);
• Americans: activity in regions that recognize
S T O R I E S
vision and text processing (read)
the auditory part of the new
brain that deciphers sound (told)
all the vision parts of the brain (to
imagine the characters)
the emotional part of the mid
– D R . D AV I D E A G L E M A N
“Every single neuron in the brain is complicated as
New York city.”
R E S O U R C E S
• “Your Brain Is You” (online course), David Eagleman
• “Neuro Web Design: What Makes Them Click”, Susan M. Weinschenk, 2009
• “Human Computer Interaction, 3rd Ed.”, Alan Dix & co., 2004
• “Fundamental Neuroscience, 3rd Ed.”, Larry R. Squire & co., 2008
• “Interaction Design: Beyond Human Computer Interaction”, Jennifer Preece,
• “Neuroscience, 3rd Ed.”, Dale Purves & co., 2004
• “Don’t Make Me Think”, Steve Krug, 2006
• “How We Decide”, Johan Lehler, 2009