“Design is about three dimensions and the five senses.” — Danielle Sacks
For more than a decade now, designers have been trying to present users with a far better value by reducing friction and gaps — and by being more efficient — in their UX design products.
A product can be simple. And it can be complex, comprising various functions, including a collection of processes. However, a designer’s role in UX design continues to be one of simplifying the paths that will lead users to their goals.
Some of a few UX best practices include seeking a perfect balance between form and content with each new user interface.
Because from the user’s point of view, everything needs to be simple to use. Now how do you reduce the complexity of UX design — while not intersecting with any cognitive load — in the way?
It focuses on how effectively a product’s use complements consumers’ cognitive capacities. It makes use of understanding how people see, think, and remember.
But how does it impact you as a designer?
Take a moment to imagine yourself searching the internet for a new car to buy. You look up car dealerships on Google in the hopes of coming across a website where you can browse and compare various car models.
You discover the following website while searching: Ling’s Cars
You’re probably feeling overwhelmed right now as a user. What should I click? Is Ling a rock star or a car dealer? Too many colors? Multiple moving parts?
It’s possible that this page will make you feel overstimulated. This is a result of the page’s design choices affecting your cognitive load. In addition to the actual content, you are also attempting to comprehend the color, typography, shapes, layout, and motion.
In essence, you are suffering from cognitive overload as you attempt to comprehend each of these components and make sense of everything. Until you filter out some of the information and make sense of the rest, your brain literally cannot process everything it has taken in.
We would not want our users to go through this as designers.
Instead of making users’ lives more difficult, we believe there is value in using the design thinking process to develop solutions. Let’s take a look at 6 things to consider for your UX Design product:
Cognitive Load Theory
People have the capacity to take in information, comprehend it, and retain it for use in the future. We make sense of both the present situation and previous situations by drawing on our experiences.
How we perceive, comprehend, and retain information can be broken down into three phases.
Sensory Memory. The eyes, ears, nose, and anything else that may receive sensory information from the surrounding. Mostly when looking at the UI UX design, it’s about experiencing a product via eyes to read words and grasp the visual elements.
Working Memory. Once you’re done reading and absorbing visual elements, information is analyzed and with relevance to what you’re looking for, information is stored in our long-term memory.
The whole churning process of analysis happens in working memory. This is why you forget lesser important images from web pages as they get filtered out.
Long-Term Memory. It is the information we’ve experienced in the past that left an impression, that we took the time to sense and work on.
All three memory banks allow us to navigate an experience as they all influence Cognitive Load.
A website or app may have links or buttons that have differences in colors in its UX design. Some elements, when hovered over, or tapped may not indicate any change at all.
And from a layout perspective, sections may be misaligned, and fonts and their sizes along with capitalization rules may be inconsistent.
How to fix that? Create a set of rules for each visual UX design.
We can consider typography aesthetics and their applications for each. We can choose a common color for all of our interactive elements so that we can quickly identify which ones are interactive.
Imagine if you were given a book to read. Then in an hour, another. And then another. Too much to handle, right? That’s exactly what happens when you present more than-needed information for the users to process.
Hence, if we can remove an extra step from our UX design products that still allows users to achieve their goals, then we are reducing cognitive load in a positive, helpful way.
It is becoming more common in e-commerce design to reduce the number of steps in the checkout process.
Instead of adding an item to a cart, Amazon now allows customers to “buy now.” Reducing process steps helps users avoid processing unnecessary steps when attempting to reach a goal.
Hard to discover information in UI UX
Another way we can unintentionally overload working memory is by making information difficult to find in our UX design.
This can happen when we bury information in a website or make it too distracting to notice information, resulting in sensory memory overload. If users rely on their long-term memory to recall common places to look for that information, then we tax long-term memory as users continue to access it.
A solution would be to follow the common conventions that other products in the same space have. If many other products provide the same type of information in the same places on the screen or in the product, we should probably do the same for our product.
Too Many Choices in UX design
Another way to overburden working memory is to provide too many options in your user interface. This may not overload sensory memory — for example, each option in a streaming service may be simple to understand.
But the difficulty is that working memory must evaluate each option and make a decision. Keeping all of those items in our working memory is difficult, and we will eventually overload.
If we present too many options to sensory memory, it may appear as if too many things are “talking” to our users at once.
Color, images, animation, and audio all attempting to communicate at the same time can result in overstimulation.
The only way to deal with overstimulation in your UX design is to cut back. Reduce functionality, visual elements, or content to make it easier for users to navigate the product.
. . .
Through all of the cognitive load theory and discussion, it is often easy to see whether a UI mockup is performing well or poorly using product and business metrics.
Don’t drastically alter something in your UX design that has already become a standard unless you have a compelling reason to do so.
Above all, pay attention, listen, and give people who interact with your interfaces a voice. Only then will we be able to create useful products that truly solve the problems of our users.