Laws of UI/UX Design
The process of creating a modern and effective UI/UX design is highly dynamic, with design practices and styles often changing and morphing in order to facilitate development and improvement of the field. There are however laws which govern the basic principles and core ideologies.
These laws have to be carefully studied by any UI/UX designer who then learns how to convert them into visual elements and implement them throughout their design.
These sets of rules are psychological principles which highly enhance the user experience through facilitating room for extra usability. They do this by utilising our natural human biases and ways of thinking, in order to help us accomplish a certain task. Wether it’s signing up for a news letter, completing a survey or choosing a product from a wide array of choices, carefully implemented laws of UI/UX design will make the process more friendly for your users.
Fitts’s Law - The Importance of Size & Distance
Established in 1954 by Paul Fitts, the law states that as the size of an object increases, the selection time decreases and as the distance between the users starting point and the object of selection decreases, so does the time needed to make that selection.
Essentially this means that as a UI/UX designer you should aim to make objects as close to one another if they are in the same sequence chain, while trying to make them as large as possible given the amount of space available. This will allow your users to make decisions quicker and with more confidence.
Jakob's Law - Familiarity is Key
Coined by Jakob Nielsen, the law states that users generally transfer expectations they have built up around one familiar product to another, in the event that it appears similar.
This means that as UI designers, we can leverage already existing mental modes in order to create superior experiences in which our user can more easily focus on a specific task, rather than spending their time learning new interfaces.
Hick's Law - Making the Choice Easier
Established in 1952 by William Edmund Hick & Ray Hyman, the law states that the more choices are presented before a user, the longer it will take them to reach a decision. This means that a wider array of choices can cause confusion, frustration and disregard, often causing a user to abandon the task.
Hicks law allows us to examine how many functions we should offer, and how that will affect our users overall approach to decision making. In order to take advantage of this law, we should categorise choices and utilise user obscuring complexity. This means that if we have a complex process, simply show only one part of the process at any one time.
Prägnanz Effect - Perceiving Groups
Established by Gestalt psychologists, the law states that different elements tend to be perceived into groups if they are sharing an area with a clearly defined boundary.
We can use this law to help our users tell which parts within an interface are a part of the same group. This allows us to better organise a design and increase the usability of a complex set of features.
Serial Position Effect - Increase Memorisation
Coined by Herman Ebbinghaus, the law states that users have a predisposition to best remember the very first and very last items in a series.
Through adhering to this law and placing the least important items in the middle, we can increase the likelihood that our most important choices will be stored in long-term and working memory of our users. The same applies for key actions and elements, positioning them on the far left and right of the screen will increase memorisation.
Von Restorff Effect - Making Items more Memorable
Established by psychiatrist Hedwig von Restorff, the law predicts that in a given set of objects if a shape is different than the surroundings objects, it’s more likely to be remembered (also known as the isolation effect).
By using this rule, we can highlight the importance of any given element within our design by making it look different it’s surroundings or surrounding objects. This can help us guide the attention of our users towards the object or action we’d like them to perform. Especially useful within UI/UX design.
Zeigarnik Effect - Uncompleted Tasks are more Memorable
A law first coined by a psychologist Bluma Wulfovna Zeigarnik in the 1920’s, states that people have a tendency to remember uncompleted or interrupted tasks more than completed ones.
This means that if we use progress bars for complex tasks to visually indicate when a task is incomplete, we can increase the likelihood of a user going back and finishing it.
Aesthetic-Usability Effect - Attractive things Work Better
A law established by researchers at the Hitachi Design Center, states that users very often perceive aesthetically pleasing design as a design that more usable and effective.
This means that pleasing aesthetics can make users more tolerant to minor usability issues, as well as creating a positive response in peoples brains. It can also mask usability problems and prevent issues from being discovered during usability testing.
Doherty Threshold - Increase Productivity
A law coined by Walter J. Doherty in 1982, shows that productivity between a human and a computer interface soars when both interact at the same pace (<400ms). This essentially means that neither have to wait for each other.
Through adhering to this law, we can increase productivity within any given interface. In order to apply this rule, we provide system feedback within 400ms in order to keep users attention as well as using perceived performance to increase response time and reduce the perception of waiting.
These laws are the key to creating powerful and exciting digital experiences for your users. Through learning them and consistently implementing them within your work you can gain an advantage over your competitors, while at the same time providing exciting and tangible results for your clients. Understanding these laws and converting them into tangible visual design elements within your work is a key skill which will allow you to distinguish yourself from other, more amateur UI/UX designers.
You can read up more about these laws over at lawsofux.com in order to gain a better understanding and help develop your skill.