Becoming a great UX designer requires a deep understanding of the principles and laws that govern user experience. By following these guidelines, you can create exceptional designs that are intuitive, engaging, and user-centered. In this article, I will explore 10 essential UX laws that every aspiring UX designer should know and apply. From Hick’s Law and Fitts’s Law to Gestalt Principles and the KISS Principle, I will delve into each law’s significance and practical implications. By mastering these laws, you can elevate your UX design skills and create experiences that delight users. So, let’s dive in and discover the key principles that will set you on the path to becoming a great UX designer.
1. Fitts’s Law
Fitts’s Law is a principle in human-computer interaction that relates the size and distance of a target to the time required for accurate selection. Larger targets closer to the user are easier and faster to interact with. Applying Fitts’s Law in UX design involves making clickable areas larger, placing frequently used elements within easy reach, and considering the user’s input device. By understanding and leveraging this law, designers can create more efficient and user-friendly interfaces.
Example — Imagine a mobile application with a menu button placed at the top right corner of the screen. Applying Fitts’s Law, the designer realizes that reaching the small menu button at that location requires more time and precision from the user. To improve usability, the designer decides to relocate the menu button to the bottom center of the screen, making it larger and easier to reach. By doing so, the designer leverages Fitts’s Law to create a more user-friendly experience, reducing the time and effort required for users to access the menu, ultimately enhancing the overall usability of the application.
2. Hick’s Law
Hick’s Law states that the time it takes to make a decision increases with the number of choices available. In UX design, it is important to simplify choices by limiting options, grouping related choices, and providing clear information. By applying Hick’s Law, you can streamline the decision-making process, reduce cognitive load, and enhance the usability of your product or interface.
Example — Let’s consider an example of Hick’s Law in action: Imagine you are designing a mobile app registration form. Instead of bombarding users with a long list of input fields and options, you apply Hick’s Law by simplifying the form. You strategically reduce the number of required fields to only the most essential information, such as username, email, and password. By doing so, users can quickly and effortlessly complete the registration process without being overwhelmed by excessive choices. This application of Hick’s Law helps streamline the user experience, minimizing decision-making time, and improving the overall usability of the registration process.
3. Jakob’s Law
Jakob’s Law, formulated by usability expert Jakob Nielsen, states that users spend most of their time on other websites and digital platforms, not just yours. Therefore, they develop expectations and mental models based on their experiences with those sites. In UX design, Jakob’s Law suggests that to create an intuitive and user-friendly experience, designers should align their design patterns, navigation structures, and interaction models with established conventions and industry standards. By adhering to familiar design elements and patterns, users can quickly understand and navigate your website or application, reducing cognitive load and enhancing usability.
Example — An example of Jakob’s Law in action is seen in the design of an e-commerce website. Applying Jakob’s Law, the designer ensures that the shopping cart icon is placed in the top-right corner, as users have come to expect this location as a convention from their experiences on other e-commerce sites. Similarly, the navigation menu follows a standard layout, with categories such as “Home,” “Shop,” “About Us,” and “Contact” in a horizontal bar at the top. By adhering to these established design patterns, users can easily and intuitively navigate the website, as they have already developed mental models based on their prior experiences with other e-commerce platforms.
4. Miller’s Law
Miller’s Law, proposed by cognitive psychologist George A. Miller, suggests that the average person can hold around seven (plus or minus two) chunks of information in their working memory. This principle has implications for UX design as it emphasizes the importance of presenting information in bite-sized chunks to enhance comprehension and reduce cognitive overload. By breaking down complex information into smaller, more manageable units, designers can facilitate better understanding and retention of content. Applying Miller’s Law involves using progressive disclosure techniques, such as collapsible sections or step-by-step processes, to reveal information gradually, allowing users to process and absorb it more effectively. By considering the limitations of working memory, designers can optimize the presentation of information, improve user engagement, and create more user-friendly experiences.
Example — An example of Miller’s Law in practice can be observed in the design of a task management application. Instead of overwhelming users with a long list of tasks and details all at once, the designer applies Miller’s Law by breaking down the information into smaller, manageable chunks. The user interface presents tasks in a concise and scannable format, displaying only the essential information such as task title, deadline, and priority level. Additional details, such as task description or attachments, are hidden initially but can be accessed through expandable sections or by clicking on the task for more in-depth information. By adhering to Miller’s Law, the design respects the limits of working memory, enabling users to focus on and process task-related information more effectively, leading to improved productivity and task management efficiency.
5. Pareto Principle (80/20 Rule)
The Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 Rule, states that roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. In UX design, the Pareto Principle suggests that a significant portion of the impact or value generated by a product or feature can be attributed to a small subset of its components or functionalities. By identifying and prioritizing this vital 20%, designers can focus their efforts on addressing the most critical user needs and improving the key aspects that will have the greatest impact on the overall user experience. This principle encourages designers to make informed decisions about resource allocation, ensuring that limited time and resources are spent on the most influential and high-impact elements, resulting in a more efficient and effective design process.
Example — An example of the Pareto Principle in action is a website analytics review. After analyzing the data, it is revealed that 20% of the website’s pages are generating 80% of the traffic and engagement. By identifying these high-performing pages, designers and content creators can prioritize their efforts on improving and optimizing the user experience of these key pages to maximize user satisfaction and achieve business goals. This could involve refining the layout, enhancing the content, or optimizing the navigation to further enhance the user experience on the most impactful pages, ensuring that the majority of the user’s attention and interaction is focused on the areas that contribute the most to the website’s success.
6. Law of Aesthetics
While there isn’t a specific “Law of Aesthetics” in UX design, the principle of aesthetics plays a vital role in creating engaging and visually pleasing user experiences. Aesthetics in UX design focuses on the sensory and emotional aspects of a product, aiming to evoke positive feelings and enhance the overall user perception. Designers apply principles such as visual harmony, balance, proportion, and the use of colors, typography, and imagery to create an appealing and cohesive design. By considering the Law of Aesthetics, designers strive to create interfaces that are visually attractive, intuitive, and enjoyable to interact with, fostering a positive emotional connection and improving user engagement and satisfaction.
Example — An example of applying the principles of aesthetics in UX design can be seen in the development of a mobile weather app. The design team focuses on creating a visually pleasing and engaging interface by implementing the Law of Aesthetics. They carefully select a color palette that conveys a sense of calm and clarity, such as soothing blues and soft gradients. They choose a clean and modern typography that is easily legible, ensuring readability in different weather conditions. The use of subtle animations, such as transitioning weather icons and smooth transitions between screens, adds a touch of elegance and enhances the user experience. By incorporating aesthetic elements, the weather app creates a visually appealing and immersive experience that not only provides accurate information but also engages users, making the overall interaction more enjoyable and memorable.
7. Law of Simplicity
The Law of Simplicity, also known as the Principle of Simplicity, states that simplicity is key in UX design, and simpler designs are more likely to be perceived as intuitive, user-friendly, and aesthetically pleasing. It emphasizes the importance of minimizing complexity, reducing cognitive load, and streamlining the user experience. Designers apply this principle by removing unnecessary elements, simplifying visual layouts, and presenting information in a clear and concise manner. By adhering to the Law of Simplicity, designers strive to create interfaces that are easy to understand, navigate, and interact with, ultimately enhancing user satisfaction, reducing errors, and improving overall usability.
Example — In designing an e-commerce website, the Law of Simplicity would be applied to create a clean and uncluttered interface with essential features. Clear and concise language would be used for product information, pricing, and instructions. Streamlined navigation, visual hierarchy, consistency, progressive disclosure, error prevention, and usability testing would all contribute to a user-friendly experience. By simplifying interactions and continuously improving the design, the website would offer an intuitive and streamlined experience for users to find and purchase products effortlessly.
8. Law of Proximity
The Law of Proximity, a fundamental principle in design, states that objects or elements that are close to each other tend to be perceived as related or forming a group. In UX design, the Law of Proximity is utilized to visually organize and structure information by grouping related elements together. By placing items in close proximity to one another, such as buttons, menus, or related content, designers can create a sense of cohesion and make it easier for users to understand the relationships and associations between those elements. This principle helps users quickly identify and interpret information, improving usability and reducing cognitive load. Designers leverage the Law of Proximity to create visually intuitive and organized interfaces that guide users’ attention and enhance their overall user experience.
Example — An example of applying the Law of Proximity in UX design can be seen in the design of a social media feed. The design team uses the Law of Proximity to visually group related content together. They place each post with its associated text, user avatar, and engagement buttons close to each other, creating a clear visual relationship. By doing so, users can quickly identify the content and its associated elements as a cohesive unit, making it easier to understand and interact with. This application of the Law of Proximity helps users scan and navigate the feed more efficiently, as they can easily distinguish between different posts and focus on the specific content they are interested in. Ultimately, this improves the usability and overall user experience of the social media platform.
9. Gestalt Principles
Gestalt Principles are a set of principles in psychology and design that describe how humans perceive and interpret visual elements as a whole based on certain principles, including similarity, proximity, closure, and continuity. These principles are applied in UX design to create meaningful and cohesive visual experiences. For example, the principle of similarity suggests that users perceive elements that share similar visual attributes, such as color or shape, as belonging to the same group or category. The principle of proximity states that objects placed close to each other are perceived as related or forming a group. The principle of closure suggests that users mentally complete incomplete or fragmented shapes to perceive them as whole. The principle of continuity states that users tend to perceive and follow smooth and continuous lines or patterns. By understanding and leveraging these Gestalt Principles, designers can create visually coherent and engaging interfaces that allow users to quickly perceive and understand the relationships and structure of the presented information, improving the overall usability and user experience.
Example — An example of applying Gestalt Principles in UX design can be seen in the layout of a travel booking website. By utilizing the principle of similarity, the design team groups visually similar elements together, such as flight options within a specific airline, displaying them with consistent colors and styles. The principle of proximity is employed to group related information together, such as displaying departure and arrival details close to each other. The principle of closure is applied by using simple icons or symbols to represent complex information, allowing users to mentally complete the missing parts and understand the meaning at a glance. Continuity is used to guide the user’s eye along a smooth and continuous path, such as displaying a progress bar to indicate the booking process stages. By employing these Gestalt Principles, the travel booking website creates a visually cohesive and intuitive interface that enhances user comprehension, ease of use, and overall user satisfaction.
10. Authority Bias
Authority Bias, also known as the Authority Principle or Authority Heuristic, refers to the tendency of individuals to attribute greater credibility, trust, and accuracy to information or instructions provided by perceived authority figures. In various contexts, including UX design, Authority Bias can influence user perceptions and decision-making. Users may give more weight to the recommendations, testimonials, or endorsements coming from authoritative figures, experts, or well-known brands. For instance, when a product or service is associated with a recognized industry leader or an influencer, users may have a higher propensity to trust and adopt it. UX designers can leverage Authority Bias by incorporating elements such as expert endorsements, certifications, or user reviews from respected sources to enhance user trust, credibility, and confidence in the product or service being offered. However, it is crucial to ensure that the use of authority is ethical and transparent, providing accurate and reliable information to avoid misleading or manipulating users.
Example — An example of Authority Bias in UX design can be observed in the inclusion of expert testimonials on a healthcare website. The design team strategically incorporates quotes or endorsements from renowned doctors or medical professionals, showcasing their expertise and credibility. By presenting these authoritative figures, users may develop a sense of trust and reassurance in the information and services provided on the website. This can positively influence their decision-making process, as they are more likely to perceive the healthcare platform as reliable and trustworthy. The presence of expert testimonials leverages Authority Bias to enhance user confidence and engagement, ultimately contributing to a more effective user experience.