Designing for Intentional Decision-Making


Designing for Intentional Decision-Making

During the early days of my career, I designed packaging and store displays for Nabisco. ‘User Experience’ wasn’t a common term within the industry at the time, but that concept was always in mind. A person choosing a product off a shelf partly-based on my strategic design decisions always fascinated me.

grocery store

Fast-forward a handful of years, and my fascination is now realized. User Experience (UX) plays a central role in all areas of marketing.

Throughout UX Design’s maturation into its own practice, I discovered a few general principles that we still use today at BrainDo. These principles can help strengthen your marketing mindset and, in turn, purposefully guide a user’s decision-making process.

Find Your Purpose

To determine a purpose-driven marketing plan, you must first understand your audience. Build goodwill with consumers by getting to know their interests. Demonstrating genuine knowledge of what they value will help your viewers trust your assistance when making a decision.

During a recent UX research project for a client’s mobile app, our team discovered through user-testing that their target audience had a deeper connection to companies and brands with whom they share the same values. This was an essential consideration since the project focused on a mandatory iOS App Tracking Transparency (ATT) prompt associated with a user’s personal information.

Based on our understanding of what their audience valued, our team successfully provided purpose-driven design recommendations, which led to an authentic (and intentional) decision-making experience.

Think like a Choice Architect

Have you ever purchased tickets for an event and raced to complete the order before a timed checkout window expired? During that experience, did you find yourself considering to upgrade to the floor seats or the VIP all access tickets? That notion of intentionally nudging your decision and changing your buyer behavior is a form of Choice Architecture.

Coined by behavioral economists Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein in their 2008 book, Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness, this concept suggests that presentation influences the choices we make. According to Thaler and Sunstein, humans are prone to hundreds of proven biases, causing us to both think and act irrationally.

Katherine Milkman, an award-winning behavioral scientist and professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, shared a great way of breaking down Choice Architecture:

Every environment where we're making a choice is shaping our decisions to some extent. So the canonical example is the cafeteria... Whoever designed the cafeteria and decided what came first and what came last, whether they realized it or not, [was] a Choice Architect. They were shaping the decisions you made about what to eat by the layout decisions they made.

Katherine Milkman

Now, we’re not in the business of creating the most effective cafeteria layout. We can, however, position products or promote information in a way to help influence decision-making through digital marketing experiences.

The theory behind Choice Architecture applies to more than just marketing. When I prepare breakfast for my two kids, I find myself positioning the healthier cereal options in front of others that may contain additional sugar to help guide their decision. Many of us act as Choice Architects without even realizing it.


Three Rules of Visual Hierarchy

In marketing and design, it’s our responsibility to take information — whether provided by the client or performance data — and engineer an experience that resonates with consumers most efficiently. Throughout that process, we follow a well-known principle called Visual Hierarchy.

Visual Hierarchy is the idea of arranging elements to show their importance. While hierarchy can be shaped by many facets, we will focus on three specific building blocks beneficial to marketing:

  1. Size or Scale
  2. Color & Contrast
  3. Grouping

Size or Scale

Size or scale indicates the importance and ranking within a visual layout. The bigger the element, the easier it attracts a user’s attention. Similarly, less important elements can be made smaller.

Play with various font sizes and imagery to signify the importance of certain elements. You can further the experience by overlapping elements, and setting the hierarchy while adding dimension to the layout.

scale and size

Color & Contrast

Successful visual design uses color and contrast to help create a solid foundation for hierarchy. People are drawn to color, so use that to your advantage. You need to figure out the right temperature of colors to attract visual attention.

Mixing colors with high contrast can be beneficial for guiding a user’s journey. Contrasting colors can also aid people with visual disabilities, helping with web accessibility for all users.

To ensure your color combinations provide a solid experience, test your selections using a contrast checker. Proper combinations should comply with accessibility standards set by the American Disabilities Act (ADA).

color and contrast


To grab and retain a user’s attention, place elements closer together or separate them strategically. Grouping indicates the relationship between elements and provides the motivation to stay engaged. This helps the audience retain the information with greater ease.

Grouping is usually conveyed (a) subliminally through proximity and the use of white space, or (b) explicitly through enclosures that signal common regions.

Add breathing room around the elements to improve scannability. An element that has more space around it will be interpreted as one group and, therefore, receive more attention. Consider highlighting the most important feature of your design by providing more space around it.

Sometimes whitespace isn’t enough of a visual cue to create hierarchy, so containing information within a border or background can help retain a user’s attention.


Influencing Decision Through Design

As you go about your day, start looking for signs of intentional design in your environment. You may be surprised by all the places you see designs implemented to impact your decision-making.

Whatever position you may hold within the world of marketing, considering the techniques listed above will help your prospects make confident decisions as quickly and efficiently as possible.

How We Can Help

At BrainDo, we cover all facets of marketing and collaborate throughout our capabilities to ensure our end-products are optimized for the best user experience.

If you have any questions about UX design techniques and are interested in how to use them for your marketing, please reach out to our talented team of digital marketers.

Got a project in mind? Let us know about it.

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