The Laws of UX in Website Design

All successful processes tend to follow some general principles. These principles will provide guidelines that individuals can follow to make a finished product as efficient and effective as it could possibly be.

This applies to any process in any industry, including website design.

So we were particularly interested to see that Interaction Designer Jon Yablonski has created a site that lays out the guiding principles he follows when it comes to user experience.

Using established theories and concepts, Laws of UX collects together the key maxims that designers should consider when building user interfaces.

He’s adding to the site whenever he can, and you can see the full list by visiting Laws of UX but we thought we’d share a selection that relates specifically to our own approach when it comes to UX.

The Aesthetic Usability Effect

First studied in the field of human-computer interaction in 1995, the aesthetic-usability effect suggests that users often perceive aesthetically pleasing design as design that’s more usable.

As a result, a design that looks good can make users more tolerant of any issues or mistakes they might experience.

In other words, you can use design to mask a number of sins.

There’s clearly a danger here. If you focus too much on making sure that a website looks good, you run the risk of having a handsome website that no one can navigate!

However, an ugly website might offer an unparalleled user experience but no one will ever know because, whether we like it or not, first impressions last.

Clearly, the takeaway here is to find a balance between good design and great UX.

The Doherty Threshold

In the 70s, it was generally thought that a computer should take around 2 seconds to respond to a request. This was based on the amount of time it takes a person to plan their next task.

This magic two-second time frame is still seen as the optimum load time for a web page. But this was actually contradicted way back in the 80s!

Since processing time for computers is always improving, even by the 1980s this level was dropping below the 2-second mark. As a result, the time it took for people to plan their next task was also dropping.

In 1982, Walter Doherty from IBM published research that showed the optimum time for a computer to respond to a request was more like 400 milliseconds!

Dubbed the Doherty Threshold, for many this became the benchmark for a computer to respond to a request. Or in this case, for a website to load. Does yours do that?

The Hick-Hyman Law

Named after psychologists William Edmund Hick and Ray Hyman, this examined the relationship between the number of stimuli present and an individual’s reaction time.

It’s hardly surprising to learn that the more choices someone has, the longer it will take them to make a decision.

Given that one of our own maxims is to Keep It Simple, simplifying choice is a big part of our UX process.

Which brings us nicely to…

Miller’s Law & Occam’s Razor

In 1956, George Miller stated that the average person can only keep up to 9 items in their working memory in order to make a decision more effectively. Anything above this causes confusion.

This also feeds into the theory of Occam’s Razor. Attributed to an English Franciscan friar, it’s a problem-solving principle that essentially states; “the simplest answer is the most likely one”.

While we all know what assumptions make of you and me, sometimes you have to assume what your website visitors want in order to offer them the best user experience.

That’s why we will always create a website structure that offers the minimum amount of effort for a user to find the content they need.

Following Miller’s Law, this will mean grouping content in a manageable way so that the visitors can choose what they want easily and quickly. 

Jakob’s Law

Dubbed the King of Usability, Jakob Nielsen gave his name to the theory that states:

Since users spend most of their time on other sites, they are likely to want your site to work in the same way as the ones they already know.

It’s the reason why websites share recognisable elements and familiar design patterns.

If you present visitors with an unconventional means of interacting with the site, they may go elsewhere.

However, there are still interesting ways to present these familiar elements so that your website doesn’t just become a carbon copy.

Online content can be used to differentiate a business from its competitors, just make sure that you follow the recognised conventions and principles of good website design to give visitors a familiar and effective user experience.

These are just a few of the principles that our UX experts use when creating websites and web applications. If you’d like to find out more, get in touch today.

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