5 Laws for Successful UX Design

800 449 Andy Curry

Many people think user experience design is an entirely creative endeavour, focusing solely on the visual characteristics of a project.

This is an understandable interpretation due to the general association with the word ’design’ – however, this is but one part of a much broader picture.

UX designers need to consider how customers think, feel and act when they are using an application or website – building an experience that takes psychological and behavioural traits into account. This is achieved through targeted research into specific users – including interviews, testing, workshops, as well as quantitative research.

In this post, we will look at the five laws for successful UX design and how designers can use the insight provided by these laws to inform the development of positive user experiences. Bear in mind that, in isolation, consideration of these laws can at most ensure best practice in your User Experience design. It is when they are twinned with objectively researched insight into your specific users that they can become truly powerful in delivering a leading experience.

Miller’s Law

Miller’s Law states that the average person can keep only seven items (+/- two) in their working memory at any one time – with judgement and decision-making abilities affected when confronted with more than this.

A way to counteract the potential confusion and overwhelm that comes when attempting to process lots of information at once is to group data into smaller, more easily digestible segments.

Credit card numbers are a prime example of this. The sixteen-digit card number is split into four groups of four in order to improve readability and lessen the possibility of input error.

E.g.; 0123543298791234 is written as 0123 5432 9879 1234.

The numbers are easier to process and remember when separated into smaller chunks with clear spaces.

Designers can use this thinking in the creation of payment systems. Making the checkout process simple, efficient and less prone to input error with automatic space creation for card numbers and sort codes.

Hick’s Law

Hick’s Law states that the more options an individual has to choose from, the longer it takes for a decision to be reached.

This is increasingly present in the digital age, where we are faced with an abundance of choices in many areas of our everyday lives. 

Streaming services are a perfect example of this. Often, more time is spent searching for something to watch than on the actual watching. 

Applying Hick’s Law in your design will ensure your processes are user-friendly and time-efficient. Split content into categories and applications into steps. Offer a ‘read more’ function that provides further information at the discretion of the reader.

Jakob’s Law

The basis of Jakob’s Law is user expectation, whereupon it states that people will visit your website with an expectation that it functions in the same way as other sites.

With this in mind, designers should avoid straying too far from normal conventions.

For example, it is common practice for the my account or checkout buttons to appear in the top right of your website. So there is little sense in placing yours in the top left, as it will likely cause confusion and greatly affect performance.

Parkinson’s Law

Parkinson’s Law says that work will expand to fill the time available for completion.

In other words, a task with a deadline for completion of one month will take a month to complete, even if it could easily be completed within two weeks.

Alternatively, an individual may complete the task within two weeks but continue working on it and making changes until the allotted time is up, which can be detrimental to the quality of work.

An autofill feature is a great time-saving tool and will allow for the timely completion of purchases, bookings and other such functions.

Fitts’ Law

Fitts’ Law contends that the amount of time it takes for a target to be reached is dependent upon its distance and size. Thus, for designers, it’s important to establish the optimum amount of space given to an object and to that which surrounds it. We also need to consider the physical relationship of interfaces with multiple buttons or links, and establish a clear and consistent hierarchy. What is the ‘primary’ call-to-action – the most mission critical button a user needs to click, and how can we mark it out visually as distinct from secondary buttons or links.

A primary call to action in the form of a button inviting mailing list sign-ups should be large and given room to breathe within the overall content, taking into account the prevalence of mobile and touch-screen devices; and the varying physical attributes of those engaging with the interface.

Applying these laws in UX Design

In this post, we’ve discussed how designing a successful user experience is much more than an appealing visual aesthetic; and the multiple perspectives that a project must be approached from.

We’ve discussed the five laws of UX design, the valuable insight they provide, and how they can be used to inform the design, development and implementation of a user-friendly system – optimised for performance and a positive customer journey.

Ultimately, however, such laws are less effective unless paired with a product, user journey and content design that is informed by targeted insight into your specific users.

If you found this post useful, visit our blog for further guidance on UX design and digital strategy.