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Cognitive psychology in UX


In psychology, the mental effort needed to learn new knowledge is defined in a cognitive charge. Cognitive psychology focuses on the way in which people acquire, process and store information within their brain. In UX designing, we may think of cognitive load as the power of mental processing required to use a feature. If the amount of information that needs to be processed exceeds the user’s ability to process it, the overall performance suffers.

The objects we experience through our senses are processed by our brain and stored in either short time memory (SMT) or long time memory (LMT). According to Millers Law, an average person can keep only 7 (plus or minus two) items in his working memory. We need to assist users in minimising the cognitive load by presenting the information they mainly look for.

If there is an overload of information, the processing capacity of the human ming reduces. Users can be confused or overwhelmed, leading to negative UX and tasks being dropped.

“We can’t change the actual processing power of our users. What we can do is get to know their limits, and minimise their processing efforts.”

How to reduce the cognitive load?

Organize information: It is essential for designs to show well-organized information, so the user can easily understand what is displayed. It is key to providing good UX and reduces the cognitive load, which will help users in achieving their goal.

Remove unnecessary actions: More the actions, the more mental effort for the users. The fewer steps the user needs to memorise, the less information their working memory needs to store, which reduces the cognitive load.

De-clutter the design: Avoid adding too many colours, animations, visual weight, interactions which makes the users confused.

Use familiar patterns: By using familiar elements and components, you make the whole process easy for the users to use because they understand these visual elements and need not put mental effort to understand them.

Keep it simple: Beyond visual simplicity aim for content simplicity. All necessary information should be on the same page along with an action button.

At last, I would like to say that, these are just some of the numerous rules that will help you understand how online users behave, how they think, and what they expect from websites. This is the only way to create a truly user-centric website that engages, converts, and retains customers.

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Cognitive psychology in UX was originally published in UX Planet on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.