May 10, 2023

How to Reduce Cognitive Load for a Better UI/UX Design

How to Reduce Cognitive Load for a Better UI/UX Design

With digital content overload, an appealing design for your user has become necessary. However, this cannot be achieved if you don't consider the impact of cognitive overload that can occur because of some UX/UI design practices.

To understand user flow and construct the most efficient design, you need to eliminate every hurdle your user might face with the design. In this article, I will discuss how you can reduce cognitive load for a better UX/UI design.

What is Cognitive Load?

Cognitive load refers to the mental effort required to complete a task or process information. In the UI/UX design context, reducing cognitive load can lead to a better user experience by making it easier and more intuitive for users to interact with the product. 

The goal of removing the cognitive load is to create a more efficient and user-friendly product that is easier for users to navigate and understand.

Keeping the cognitive load to a minimum is the job of the UX/UI designer, which is essential for any platform to work. Three types of cognitive loads need to be considered while designing any interface. 

  • Intrinsic Cognitive Load: When a user is presented with new information and how difficult the task is for the user to understand. While processing this information, the user will keep track of the progress and what they are trying to accomplish.
  • Extraneous Cognitive Load: As evident from the title, extraneous cognitive load is the excess mental resources that aren't directly related to the task. The cognitive load imposed by the design of the interface or the presentation of information can be reduced by improving the design of the interface, and the way information is presented.
  • Germane Cognitive Load: Germane load (GL) refers to the mental resources devoted to acquiring and automating schemata in long-term memory. Sweller et al. (1998)

The cognitive load that leads to a bad design is extraneous cognitive load. Which is what we will try to reduce as much as possible with the following steps.

Accounting for your users' mental model

"A mental model is an explanation of someone's thought process about how something works in the real world."

Creating an experience that is easy to understand and use is essential in UX/UI design. Understanding the thought process of your users allows you to craft a more intuitive and enjoyable interface.

This is where accounting for users' mental models comes into play. Users don't like change they expect certain features to be placed in a particular place based on their previous experience.

"Users spend most of their time on other sites, and they prefer your site to work the same way as all the other sites that they already know ".-Jakob's Law.

Whenever we visit a place and expect to find an item, and it isn't there, it causes unnecessary confusion and frustration. This leads to an increase in the extraneous cognitive load, so as a designer, your priority is to give a seamless experience to the user so they can have a smooth user flow.

Whenever you want to update or innovate any UI/UX design features, it must be very subtle, and the change must be gradual, not sudden.

With the help of User research, you can gain insights into your users' mental models, allowing you to design a product that meets their expectations.

When designing interfaces, it's important to use familiar design patterns that users are accustomed to. This makes it easier for users to understand how to interact with your product, as they can apply their existing mental model to your design.

Give your users' feedback on their actions as success, failure, and progress indicators so they can know what is going on and where they are in the user flow. This will help them understand how the system works.

Fewer Choices & Effective Information Architecture

Hick's Law, originating from the research of psychologists William Edmund Hick and Ray Hyman, is commonly applied in UX design. Hick's Law states that any individual is presented with multiple options or choices the longer it takes them to decide. We can see the implementation of this Law in various industries to boost sales and usability. The same goes for the UX/UI design.

By using simple information architecture principles, you can create a more straightforward, more efficient interface. By doing so, you can remove clutter and group options and choices similar to one another, where the user can find them easily.  

Grouping related content can help users find the information they need quickly and easily. Consider grouping content by topic, function, or user need, and use clear and concise labels to identify each group.

Prioritize the important content to help users find what they need quickly and efficiently. Use white space to reduce cognition load and help users find content quickly.

In Addition, use appropriate margins and padding to create a clear visual separation between different pieces of content. This will help users navigate options and choices effortlessly and will be less time-consuming. 

Consistency from start to finish

To reduce extraneous cognitive load, you must keep your UX/UI design consistent. Therefore, you need to consider that every item or feature of the design is in coherence. You can do so by following some simple design principles which are:

  • Visual language: Use consistent visual languages, such as color, typography, and icons, to create a cohesive design. This will help the user feel in harmony with the design without feeling overloaded or confused. 
  • Follow a grid system: grid system helps you create a consistent layout and visual hierarchy throughout your product. Which will make the content more understandable and organized for the user.
  • Consistent style and language: Using uniform for all elements, such as buttons, forms, and text boxes, helps creates a sense of familiarity that makes the product more user-friendly. Alongside that, use familiar and easy-to-understand consistent language that will easily guide the user throughout the platform.

In Conclusion, Keep It Simple

By keeping the design simple and uncluttered, users can easily navigate the product and focus on what's important. Designing for less cognitive load in UX/UI design is all about simplifying the design and reducing the mental effort required to complete a task.

By using clear and simple language, keeping the design consistent, minimizing the number of steps, using white space, providing clear feedback, and using simple and recognizable icons, designers can create a product that is easier to use and understand, resulting in a better user experience. 

If you want advice on reducing the cognitive load on your UX/UI design or want an expert's opinion, you can always contact us. With our free consultation, you can identify and fix problems before it's too late.

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