Web design and user experience testing have been around for a relatively short space of time; but in that period learnings from other related fields have been applied to the discipline and some laws have been adapted or evolved, that can be taken as generalised truths in online design and development matters.
The first of these is Hick’s Law. This is an adaptation and application of a psychological precept from the 1950s which states that the time taken to make a decision increases exponentially with the number of options available. This is made relevant to online applications by carefully considering the choices we offer to users in our design and structure to minimise the burden of selection that the user might feel. The more sophisticated the user data that we have, the more we can narrow down offerings to potential customers and reduce the chance of decision paralysis and likely quit rate from this inability to choose.
So, rather than offering users lots of choices you should be trying to narrow down their options based on what you already know they like. Thus, restricted choice is actually a benefit and not a deterrent. The same can be apply to content as well as product lists; make sure you focus on the essential and stress the difference between those issues that are important and those that are peripheral.
Fitts’ Law is another psycho-social observation from the 1950s which posits that the time taken to focus in on a target is a function of the distance from the target and its width. In web terms this translates to issues around button size and the size and relative positions of other clickable elements on a site. Hiding buttons and other click-throughs by making them too small or less obvious will hinder navigation on a laptop or desktop but can make action on a mobile or tablet almost impossible where the use of a finger on a touchscreen is a pretty blunt instrument and requires quite a large area to aim at. The other side of this coin is that you need to make sure that when you do introduce large clickable elements that their size is relative to their importance and frequency of use; otherwise you might find users consistently clicking them inadvertently and becoming frustrated.
Finally Miller’s Law, which was formulated by a Princeton professor, states that an average person’s working memory is only comfortable with seven items. This is not only important for website design and user experience in terms of the density and complexity of content, but it also predicates that information should be chunked in more memorable ways for users. Phone numbers, for example, are much easier to remember if they are split into groups such as the code followed by two groups of three. This also makes mnemonics and relationships between numbers easier to establish and memorise.
There are many lessons from psychology, sociology, communications and other disciplines which can be adapted and applied to web construction and design. Why not give us a ring on +44(0)800 024624 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to learn more about scientifically validated web development and testing.