If somebody were to look out on the landscape of applications available, the amount of options is staggering. However, it's pretty easy to see that two applications that have the same basic functions (let's say, to-do apps) are designed with a particular audience in mind.

From a psychology viewpoint, what are the main personality archetypes that designers consider when creating their application? (I am familiar with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator but unsure of its use in this setting.) For example, maximizer/minimalist, analytical/intuitive, etc.

3 Answers 3


For the Big Five personality scale (measuring Openness to experience, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism) the research on software interfaces has focused on introverts vs extraverts.

People think of computers, and of computer programs as social actors (Reeves & Nass have done a lot of research on this topic) and show similar behavior patterns as in human-human interaction. An interesting example is similarity-attraction: introvert people are attracted to other introverts; extraverts to other extraverts. This also applies to computer programs, an 'introvert' program (little smalltalk, focus on facts, more serious) is more attractive to introvert people, while extraverts prefer extravert software (informal, outgoing, funny, etc.).

Examples are this study on social presence in HCI , with a focus on voice characteristics and textual content and this study on personality characteristics for the NAO robot, including things like gaze and interruption patterns. There are studies on other personality models as well, such as this learning interface using MBTI.


There is a wealth of models at Business Balls but trying to distill something useful out of this is tricky, but for myself, Carl Jungs four functional types seem the most useful from a psychological perspective:

  • Thinking - meaning and understanding - what something is
  • Feeling - weight and value - whether it's good or not
  • Sensation - sensual perception - something exists
  • Intuition - possibilities and atmosphere - where it's from and where it's going

And mapping these types of user (in the same order) to design considerations you might get the need to cater for:

  • clarity of functionality, familiarity, detail
  • look and feel of design, tone and and ease of interaction
  • just getting the job done with no fuss, no surprises
  • a sense of location, direction, progress and consistency

Just for the record - I have never actually considered this formal psychological approach until I saw this question, but now that I have, I kind of see that this is what I do anyway. So does it all really matter? Doesn't the UX pro consider these personalities anyway - whether deliberately in a formal manner or just by the all encompassing approach of trying to design for all users?

  • I don't use personas and I don't design for "all users", so no, personally, this isn't how I work :)
    – Rahul
    Jul 31, 2011 at 12:03
  • 1
    So that was a bit of a generalisation :-) But by having the knowledge and awareness that a UX background or interest gives you, don't you find yourself trying to take account of as many of the 'human factors' as you possibly can (given the scope and audience of your project) and by not making the 'mistakes' that others might, thereby end up with a design that caters for the many - because you know your users. Jul 31, 2011 at 12:11

I don't think persona's deal with the personality types of the user as much as they focus on the circumstances of the users life. When developing the persona, things such as culture, age, location, technical ability, employment and education have a much greater effect on the actions the user performs in use cases than their specific personality type.

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