Creating great designs and products boils down to your ability as a designer to introduce the basic, yet vital laws of UX into your designs.
UX laws are a collection of best practices designers can employ when building user interfaces, creating designs, and building products.
In this article, we will examine the top ten UX laws every designer needs to know, with practical examples and how you can implement these principles into your designs.
Let’s get started!
Top 10 essential UX laws and how to apply them
When creating products, designs, and interfaces your users will find useful and easy to interact with, there are specific UX laws you must put into consideration. They are:
1. False-consensus effect
The false-consensus effect is one of the prominent UX laws that emphasize the fact that many people, including designers, have the tendency to think that everyone else acts like them in a specific situation or context.
For example, designers may think their users will use a product like them, or act like them in a particular scenario. However, this is often not true, because users come from different backgrounds and see situations from different perspectives.
So, to avoid structuring your designs based on the belief that users react the same way, you should consider conducting usability testing for your products.
Usability testing allows you to test your product with real users, so you can observe their interactions with your product. This way, you are enlightened on how they are likely to react to your products when they use them.
You will be able to identify their expectations and make the necessary improvements to create a good design rather than design based on the hypothesis that they will act as you would.
If you would like to know more about running usability testing on designs and products, usability testing 101 is an excellent resource to guide you.
2. Aesthetic usability effect
Researchers Masaaki Kurosu and Kaori Kashimura from the Hitachi Design Center studied the aesthetic usability effect in 1995. During their research, they discovered that design and usability go hand in hand.
They realized that when many users find a product or design visually appealing, they often perceive them to be easy to use.
It also revealed that when a product is aesthetically pleasing to users, they are able to cope or overlook its minor usability issues.
There are different ways to apply the aesthetic usability effect to your product and designs. First, create a visually appealing user interface. Second, focus on creating beautiful designs on the most prominent aspects of your website, online store, landing page, or blog.
For example, where are your visitors likely to visit more often? What part of your design are your users drawn to? Answering these questions will give you an idea of where to focus on.
Importantly, do not go overboard with your aesthetics. Beautiful designs are great, but only meaningful to your users when they are practical and easy to use.
While your users may overlook minor usability shortcomings due to an attractive design, they may not be able to let go of complicated usability challenges.
So, ensure you consider functionality and usability when designing your product.
3. Hick’s law
Hick’s law is proof that the more choices your users have, the more confused they are. It states that the number of times it takes to make a decision increases by the number and complexity of choices, therefore, providing your users with minimal choices is key.
When your customers are placed with many choices, they spend more time thinking of the right choice to make, which leads to frustration and decision paralysis.
An excellent UX design follows Hick’s law of minimalism, by keeping the design simple, and minimal to direct your users to make instant decisions.
So, when designing, you should:
- Keep the total number of choices your users need to make to the minimum.
- Focus on critical navigation options rather than multiple navigation options to simplify their decision-making process.
For example, HelpScout’s navigation bar only highlights essential categories for users:
4. Fitts’ law
Fitts’ law focuses on making it easy for users to take actions by making actions accessible to users based on the distance the user has to take and the target’s size.
This is because, In 1954, the originator of Fitts’ law, psychologist Paul Fitts, while evaluating the human motor system, realized that the longer it takes to get to a target and the smaller the target’s size, the more difficult it will be to get to the target.
To Fitts, a design’s usability increases when the interactive elements are larger and closer to users. This explains why the most used keys on the keyboard like Space, Enter and Shift keys are larger than other keys.
To apply Fitts’ law to your design, ensure the interactive elements of your designs are large enough for your users to see and close enough for them to reach quickly.
Also, distinguish them from other elements in the design. For example, make them appear larger, or use a different color to separate them from the rest of the interface. Putting all these in consideration makes it easier for your users to identify the next action they need to take and take them quickly.
5. Von Restorff effect or isolation effect
The Von Restorff effect or isolation effect says that people are more likely to remember distinct objects or elements in a design.
If an object stands out, people are going to notice it, and it would most likely get stuck in their memories for a long time. This probably explains why critical elements of a design, like call-to-action buttons, are often designed with different colors than the rest of the text.
To apply the Von Restorff effect in your designs, ensure to make the most important information prominent in your design, as seen in this example:
In the image above, Sleeknote highlights the call-to-action “Start Your Free Trial” in yellow, to distinguish it from the rest of the text. This makes it noticeable and compels their users to click the button.
6. Zeigarnik effect law
The Zeigarnik effect law says that users remember uncompleted tasks more than completed tasks. When people start a task and don’t finish it, it sticks to their memory, which motivates them to complete their tasks.
This is why many brands and designers use this principle to get users to complete their sign-ups and fill forms.
They break the tasks into simple steps and update their users on how many steps they’ve completed, and how many steps are left. This becomes a form of motivation for the users, as they are eager to complete the unfinished processes.
Below is an example:
Here, Kevan Lee breaks the newsletter subscription process into a two-step process. The first process is where users choose a subscription plan. While the second process asks them to complete their sign-up.
7. Goal-gradient effect
The goal-gradient effect law is similar to the Zeigarnik effect as it motivates users to complete tasks on your app or website. It shows them how close they are to a task so they can complete it faster.
As a designer, help users start the remaining steps left to complete a task by showing their progress through images. For example, you can use illustrations to show your users what steps they’ve taken and how many items are left on the list.
The more steps your users take, the more motivated they are to continue because they know they are getting closer to completion. This enables you to get your customers to complete processes that they may find daunting or time-consuming on your app or website.
8. Law of uniform connectedness
The law of uniform connectedness reveals that items and elements that are visually connected are related.
This means if you want your users to perform a group of related actions, applying the law of connectedness can get them to perform those actions.
You can do this by using the same shapes, or colors to connect the related tasks you want your users to complete, as seen below:
Here, Work on a group’s related tasks in a white-colored box to enable users to perform similar actions.
9. Parkinson’s law
Parkinson’s law requires users to limit the time to complete a task to what users typically expect. By doing this, you can improve your users’ experience as they will take a shorter time to get things done.
For example, if your user expects to spend two minutes filling a form, you can shorten this duration to a minute using Parkinson’s law.
For example, as seen in the image below, this writing assistant software reduces the time users spend when logging in by remembering their log-in details.
10. Peak-end rule
The peak-end rule states that people judge their experience with a product based on their peak moments with the product, as well as how they feel at the end of their experience.
It is, therefore, important to focus on making the most critical part of an experience and its end positive for your users. To do this, you can use illustrations and witty statements at specific points to aid your users’ journey.
For example, Ahrefs uses illustrations and an engaging text to communicate with users in the image below:
UX laws enable you to design relatable, easy-to-use, and useful products for your users. In this article, we discussed the top ten UX laws to consider when designing your products for best results.