< Back to Blog home

UX Tip #94 Design for cognitive styles

User experience design is often concerned with helping users make the right decisions, both for them and your business. Understanding the cognitive style, or thinking style, of users can give us insights into how they make decisions, allowing us to design better experiences.

Whole Brain Thinking


Herrmann Four Quadrant Whole Brain Model The Herrmann Four Quadrant Whole Brain model.

One model we can use to help us understand cognitive styles is the Herrmann Four Quadrant Whole Brain model.

According to this model there are four distinct thinking styles:

  1. Analytical (e.g. logical, fact based, quantitative).
  2. Practical (e.g. organized, sequential, detailed oriented).
  3. Relational (e.g. interpersonal, feeling-based, emotional).
  4. Experimental (e.g. holistic, intuitive, integrating).

Everyone has access to all four quadrants but to varying degrees. 5% of the population have a preference for one quadrant, 58% have a preference for two quadrants, 34% have a preference for three quadrants and 3% prefer all four equally. Applying Whole Brain Thinking means being able to fully leverage one’s own preferences, stretch to other quadrants when necessary, and adapt to and take advantage of the preferences of those around you to improve performance and results.

So how can we use this model?

Let’s use the example of purchasing a car.

  • Analytical users would put more emphasis on engine performance and specifications.
  • Practical users would take into account the maintenance costs and depreciation rate.
  • Relational users would want to know the materials used to make the car and how comfortable they may feel in the driver’s seat.
  • Experimental users may simply base their decision on the look-and-feel of the car.
Knowing the different cognitive styles of our target user groups can help us design user experiences which make decision-making easier.


Enjoyed this UX Tip? We've got loads more useful content to help you and your organisation successed in the digital world; from User Experience best practices, to Web Development insights and business strategies. Subscribe to our Blog now and we'll send you a quick email each time we publish a new article.


Do you understand how your users think?
Our team of Psychologists and User Experience experts can help you improve your online customer experience and get the most out of your website today.

Learn more about our approach to UX Design