4 laws of user experience that make for a better web

Written by - March 20, 2019

Every digital project should be designed around a number of fundamental design laws. To deliver a product that both delivers our clients’ needs and demands, while also having as little impact on the environment as possible, is a big ask.

For us, the solution to this tension is to design all our websites around a few key fundamental UX laws. I will go into a little bit of detail on each below, but in essence they all speak of the same thing; clarity, simplicity, purpose and performance. The following laws should inform every step of the design and discovery process so that the products we ship are good for people, and also good for the world.

Doherty Threshold

“Productivity soars when a computer and its users interact at a pace (<400ms) that ensures that neither has to wait on the other.”

For any website we push live, speed is paramount. Any delay in page load will ultimately impact the user’s perception of the site. As the Doherty Threshold dictates, an immediate interaction between user and computer will heighten the experience and result in a much simpler and more enjoyable experience. We would always recommend using smaller optimised images, as few font files as possible and staying away from heavy javascript. Kinsta also write an insightful post on page speed optimisation.

Hick’s Law

“The time it takes to make a decision increases with the number and complexity of choices.”

Okay, so Hick’s Law is a lovely law for anyone minimalist at heart. Essentially – less is more. I find the key to designing a website or digital experience with Hick’s Law in mind, is to find what’s most important for the user. What key decisions does the user need to make? And if a few – which is most important for that specific step in the journey? For complex areas of websites, breaking the information down is a reasonable solution – I’d always aim to prevent the user from becoming overwhelmed by offering recommended or key options. User habits also help with this specific law in that people are now aware to scroll down and therefore, more vertical space is opened up. If you’re keen to read up on Hick’s Law – this is a good article.

Miller’s Law

“The average person can only keep 7 (plus or minus 2) items in their working memory.”

Miller’s law is a little more confusing to define. It’s essentially stating that users will become confused if offered 4, or 9 or more pieces of information. Here’s a technical breakdown of how Miller’s Law was equated. This Law is all about the quantity of choices we are offering our users. One example on our site, which indicates that we are carefully considering the amount of choices we are offering, is our Work page – here we list 6 case studies that users can click on to read. You’ll also note that we offer secondary choices below the key 6; this is to get across the amount of quality work we want to share – but at the same time, see as less important than the 6 focussed posts.

Occam’s Razor

“Among competing hypotheses that predict equally well, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected.”

Occam’s Razor is another one of these UX Laws that essentially says ‘keep it simple’. This article on Occam’s Razor is a really great summary of the law and also deeply insightful for design tips. I wrote a blog post recently on Dieter Rams – and there are certainly similarities with this law and his views on designs. Rams remarked that design “…at best, is self-explanatory” and this we should learn from, alongside Occam’s Razor, to know that by trimming away complexity, our work will have clarity and be much more impactful.

It’s worth noting that there are many, many more key rules/laws for user experience – several of which can be found collated over at the lawsofux.com. Simplicity is at the core of all our work, and by introducing these laws into our design process, this will always make for a website that works for conversion, customer satisfaction and efficiency. How do these laws apply to your website? Why not get in touch and tell us your own favourite UX laws. We’d love to hear from you.