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Design a better system... With cognition in mind!



December 9, 2020

Human cognition feeds into every area of how we perform operations. The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman explains that every task we execute can be broken down subconsciously into smaller sub-tasks.These sub-tasks impact how we behave when achieving our goals!

Cognitive Load Theory is an approach that looks at the limitations in our cognition and provides a framework to help product designers to build more cognition-friendly solutions to our problems.

Could your user interface be in need of a shakeup? Does it really have a cognitively-friendly approach to your users? Let’s find out!

Do you use example variability?

Try combining icons or small graphics with text to insinuate instruction to your users. Don’t limit yourself to one method of conveying choices that you want your users to take! By taking this approach,you are enabling users to draw upon mental schemata, which they can use to navigate your system with greater ease!

Reduce the interaction of your elements

Isolate components of your page! Don’t force your users to focus on two areas of your page simultaneously. This will overload the cognitive load of your users and is a sure way of slashing the engagement of your users. Keep sections in their own bubble and try to avoid having user input directly effect multiple areas of your system.

Establish consistency

Keep a close eye on your colour palette and make sure to convey what it is that each member of your palette represents. Therefore, avoid overlapping colours and clearly define what an error message will look like, for example. And keep the style of this element away from components such as tool tips or positive responses.

Scrap bloating content

The big one. Get rid of content that bloats your system. We often find ourselves blissfully ignorant to the flaws of our work. Take a step back and really question the fundamental design choices you have made, straight to the bare-bones of your blueprints. Question the purpose of every element present in your system. You may find this difficult, many often do. Our users have a much wider vision than we do. Therefore, it may help to start user testing purely with this purpose in mind. Make sure you find out:

  • What content do they use the least?
  • Which elements of your system did they rely on?
  • What their overall thoughts of your product are

A great way to gather these answers, is through user testing with the Thinking-Aloud Protocol, which we have another article on.

If you have any questions or want to reach out to us, please get in touch via our Twitter and LinkedIn social spaces.


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