⚖️ (Some of) the laws and principles of UX ⚖️


Within the world of UX, whilst every design challenge is unique and different, there are fundamental behaviours that are common among users. These principles are essential to remember and consider when approaching any design solution. They provide guidance and help ensure that the design approach is logical, usable and overall offers the best user experience. Here is a quick run down of some of the key UX laws and principles to keep in mind when designing.

Jakob’s Law

Jakob’s Law of Internet User Experience essentially illustrates that designing familiar experiences are preferred. The reason for this is that people are accustomed to how certain things work, it requires little to no thinking or a learning curve. However, when this law is violated, you can often find users confused as it immediately creates an unfamiliar experience, which in turn will most likely involve people feeling frustrated, and likely leaving your platform. There are some caveats of course, innovation is important especially if there is clear value. However the majority of the time it’s best to keep design familiar and avoid reinventing the wheel.

Fitts’s Law

Named after Paul Fitts, this law states that the time required to move to a target is dependant on the distance to it and the size of the target. During the 1950s, Fitts examined the human motor system, and observed that when the target was small and fast moving, there were greater error rates in reaching it. In terms of UX, this translates to buttons and how users have to navigate to them. We see this particularly on mobile devices, where a button might be at the top of the screen, away from the thumb. It means the users has to move further to reach it to click it. Also the size of the button will impact the accuracy of this movement. Therefore, it is recommended that buttons should be located in easy to reach areas, not far from the task, and be of an adequate size, in order to reduce the likelihood of errors and improve the UX.

Hick’s Law

The 1950s was an innovative period for theories it would seem! In 1952, William Edmund Hick and his colleague Ray Hyman developed Hick’s Law (sometimes the Hick-Hymn Law). The pair investigated the reaction time of an individual to an increasing amount of external stimuli. They found that the more options that were made available to the user, the longer they would take to decide which one to interact with. When applied to the world of UX, this law is relevant to the design of interfaces and the amount of options and interactions available to the user. Too many, and the user will become frustrated and overwhelmed. Therefore, it is recommended to minimise the number of choices when a user needs to make a critical decision. Similarly, large tasks should be broken up into smaller, progressive steps so as to ease the cognitive load.

The 80/20 rule or Pareto Principle

This principle states that for many outcomes, 80% of consequences comes from 20% of causes (roughly). This 20% is also referred to as the vital few. In relation to UX design, this theory surmises that in order to improve efficiency, we should focus our time on the most critical and important areas as these will bring the most benefit. In other words, focus the design attention on those main areas a user will interact with (the vital few), and it will solve 80% of use cases. Microsoft even reported that fixing 20% of bugs will resolve 80% of customer’s issues. Although these are rough estimates, the theory shows that focussing on the main areas of a UI and UX will reap the most benefits.

Aesthetic Usability Effect

People are fickle and impressionable. Despite the saying, people really do judge a book by its cover. The same goes for UIs. This effect is based on the fact that people perceive a more visually appealing design as more intuitive and easy to use over a not so nice looking interface. You could argue the not so nice UI provides bad UX, but something as seemingly simple as colour choices have a significant effect on a user’s impression of a design. Furthermore, the nicer the look and feel of a product, the more sympathetic and tolerant a user will be to minor issues such as loading delays etc. People are drawn to “beauty” and the same can be seen when it comes to UI design.

© Julie Iris Design

IKEA Effect

Also known as the Lego effect, this affects both the user and also the designer themselves. The theory is that people place a higher value on something they have invested time in, i.e. assembled, created, put their blood, sweat and tears into. In other words, people will value their IKEA wardrobe because they spent hours assembling it and persevering through the frustration and confusion. The same goes for product design. For the designer, we need to remain somewhat detached from what we do, as we are not the user, and therefore we need to be open to changes in our designs (and even the scrapping of a whole feature).

When it comes to users, it translates to creating engaging designs so a user invests time into using a feature, but in doing so, their perception of its value will increase. This doesn’t mean that we should draw out processes and workflows needlessly. This just means create a fun and engaging experience for a user. Make the form less tedious and boring to fill out. Include enjoyable interactions. Make the enjoy the task they are doing, so they are proud of the result and they time they have spent completing it.

The Von Restorff effect

During her 1933 study, Hedwig von Restroff fund that when participants were given a list of similar items and one different item, they remembered this item because of its uniqueness. This effect is sometimes referred to as the Isolation Effect. When thought about within UX and UI design, this means that important and critical information and actions need to be made visually distinctive. Conversely, not all elements should have the same level of emphasis, so they don’t end up competing with each other. There should be a hierarchy of importance communicated through the design of the interface. This makes the important calls to action, information and tasks easier to find for a user due to the distinctive visual differences.

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