Laws of UX Design: Key Principles for Intuitive UX

Laws of UX Design: Key Principles for Intuitive UX

Vlad Solomakha

Vlad Solomakha

May 31, 2024

May 31, 2024

Quick overview of fundamental UX laws with examples. Learn principles of UX design discovered by researchers and pioneers in the user experience field.

Quick overview of fundamental UX laws with examples. Learn principles of UX design discovered by researchers and pioneers in the user experience field.

Law of Aesthetics

People perceive that things that look good will work better.

This was first studied by researchers from the Hitachi Design Center back in 1995. They found a strong correlation between aesthetic appeal and ease of use of products.

Users even tend to tolerate minor usability issues if the product looks good. One great example is Apple's Magic Mouse. Even though you can't change and use it at the same time, they were able to sell tens of millions of them just because of a slick and futuristic look.

Fitts’s Law

The time to acquire a target is a function of the distance to and size of the target.

This principle is crucial for designing efficient and quick-to-use interfaces. In 1954, psychologist Paul Fitts discovered that the time it takes to "acquire" a target increases as the distance to the target and the target’s size decrease.

For example, frequently used buttons or icons should be larger and should be placed in easily accessible areas, while less important elements should be smaller and placed further away.

This principle is very relevant in the era of touchscreen interfaces, where tapping zones should be properly sized.

Hick’s Law

The more choices a user has, the longer it takes to make a decision.

Hick’s UX law states that overloading users with too many options increases decision-making time. How often were you lost when ordering food in the food delivery app, with hundreds of different restaurant options presented to you?

Avoid overwhelming users with too many options when designing the UX of your app. Present a clear set of choices and proactively help them make quick, informed decisions.

Uber is a great example of applying Hick’s Law. Imagine if it presented all available drivers… instead, it takes a proactive approach, and the only thing the user needs to select is the price bracket of the cab and hit the order button.

Jakob’s Law

Users prefer interfaces that are familiar to them.

Users, being regular humans, are creatures of habit. They gravitate towards interfaces they are already familiar.

Jakob's UX law explains why similar categories of apps have similar interfaces. E-commerce websites have similar layouts, food ordering apps use similar screen structures and all social networks feature feeds and profiles.

By designing using recognizable UX patterns, you make it easier for users to navigate and get value from your product.

Law of Proximity

Objects placed near each other appear to be grouped.

The UX law of proximity states that objects close to each other, are perceived as a group.

For example, on Amazon, related and recommended products are grouped together. It helps users to not think about the products' connection and simplifies the navigation.

Law of Similarity

Similar-looking objects are perceived as related.

Did you notice that delete buttons often have a consistent red background or text color? It's a great example of this UX law. Humans tend to link similar visual features of objects with similar functions.

This principle can be applied to all kinds of UX design details, ranging from typography, color, corner radius, and even animations.

Miller’s Law

The average person can hold 7 (+- 2) items in their active memory.

Back in 1956, George Miller asserted that the span of immediate memory and judgment was limited to around 7 pieces of information.  People can retain a limited amount of information at once.

When there's a lot of things on the screen it's hard for users to make a decision. Limit the number of options you display in your interface.

Law of Continuity

Human eyes naturally follow lines or curves, perceiving a continuous path as related.

This UX law is observable in the real world in that the human eye follows the smoothest path when viewing lines.

The law of continuity suggests that users follow a continuous path when interacting with digital interfaces. You can use flowing lines, curved shapes, and consistent layouts to create smooth and natural user experiences.

Summary

Several laws of UX design have been formulated by scientists and UX pioneers to guide designers in creating better user experiences. Here’s a quick summary of the UX laws:

  1. Law of Aesthetics: Good-looking products are perceived to work better.

  2. Fitts’s Law: The time to acquire a target depends on its distance and size.

  3. Hick’s Law: More choices increase decision-making time.

  4. Jakob’s Law: Users prefer familiar interfaces.

  5. Law of Proximity: Objects close to each other are perceived as a group.

  6. Law of Similarity: Similar-looking objects are perceived to have similar functions.

  7. Miller’s Law: People can hold about 7 items in their working memory.

  8. Law of Continuity: Users follow continuous paths naturally.

Applying these laws can help you create intuitive and user-friendly interfaces. But don't stress out if your UX doesn't follow all of them. After some experience, some of those design principles can appear naturally in your UI.

Law of Aesthetics

People perceive that things that look good will work better.

This was first studied by researchers from the Hitachi Design Center back in 1995. They found a strong correlation between aesthetic appeal and ease of use of products.

Users even tend to tolerate minor usability issues if the product looks good. One great example is Apple's Magic Mouse. Even though you can't change and use it at the same time, they were able to sell tens of millions of them just because of a slick and futuristic look.

Fitts’s Law

The time to acquire a target is a function of the distance to and size of the target.

This principle is crucial for designing efficient and quick-to-use interfaces. In 1954, psychologist Paul Fitts discovered that the time it takes to "acquire" a target increases as the distance to the target and the target’s size decrease.

For example, frequently used buttons or icons should be larger and should be placed in easily accessible areas, while less important elements should be smaller and placed further away.

This principle is very relevant in the era of touchscreen interfaces, where tapping zones should be properly sized.

Hick’s Law

The more choices a user has, the longer it takes to make a decision.

Hick’s UX law states that overloading users with too many options increases decision-making time. How often were you lost when ordering food in the food delivery app, with hundreds of different restaurant options presented to you?

Avoid overwhelming users with too many options when designing the UX of your app. Present a clear set of choices and proactively help them make quick, informed decisions.

Uber is a great example of applying Hick’s Law. Imagine if it presented all available drivers… instead, it takes a proactive approach, and the only thing the user needs to select is the price bracket of the cab and hit the order button.

Jakob’s Law

Users prefer interfaces that are familiar to them.

Users, being regular humans, are creatures of habit. They gravitate towards interfaces they are already familiar.

Jakob's UX law explains why similar categories of apps have similar interfaces. E-commerce websites have similar layouts, food ordering apps use similar screen structures and all social networks feature feeds and profiles.

By designing using recognizable UX patterns, you make it easier for users to navigate and get value from your product.

Law of Proximity

Objects placed near each other appear to be grouped.

The UX law of proximity states that objects close to each other, are perceived as a group.

For example, on Amazon, related and recommended products are grouped together. It helps users to not think about the products' connection and simplifies the navigation.

Law of Similarity

Similar-looking objects are perceived as related.

Did you notice that delete buttons often have a consistent red background or text color? It's a great example of this UX law. Humans tend to link similar visual features of objects with similar functions.

This principle can be applied to all kinds of UX design details, ranging from typography, color, corner radius, and even animations.

Miller’s Law

The average person can hold 7 (+- 2) items in their active memory.

Back in 1956, George Miller asserted that the span of immediate memory and judgment was limited to around 7 pieces of information.  People can retain a limited amount of information at once.

When there's a lot of things on the screen it's hard for users to make a decision. Limit the number of options you display in your interface.

Law of Continuity

Human eyes naturally follow lines or curves, perceiving a continuous path as related.

This UX law is observable in the real world in that the human eye follows the smoothest path when viewing lines.

The law of continuity suggests that users follow a continuous path when interacting with digital interfaces. You can use flowing lines, curved shapes, and consistent layouts to create smooth and natural user experiences.

Summary

Several laws of UX design have been formulated by scientists and UX pioneers to guide designers in creating better user experiences. Here’s a quick summary of the UX laws:

  1. Law of Aesthetics: Good-looking products are perceived to work better.

  2. Fitts’s Law: The time to acquire a target depends on its distance and size.

  3. Hick’s Law: More choices increase decision-making time.

  4. Jakob’s Law: Users prefer familiar interfaces.

  5. Law of Proximity: Objects close to each other are perceived as a group.

  6. Law of Similarity: Similar-looking objects are perceived to have similar functions.

  7. Miller’s Law: People can hold about 7 items in their working memory.

  8. Law of Continuity: Users follow continuous paths naturally.

Applying these laws can help you create intuitive and user-friendly interfaces. But don't stress out if your UX doesn't follow all of them. After some experience, some of those design principles can appear naturally in your UI.