The Interplay Between Hick’s Law and User Experience (UX) Design

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The Interplay Between Hick’s Law and User Experience (UX) Design

Tips beneficial for improving the user experience and product design

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Previously, I wrote about the need for an information architecture (IA) framework for creating products, as well as the interplay between Fitts’ Law and human-computer interaction. This time, I will decompose Hick’s law and its intersection with product design.

The more options a person has, the longer it may take them to make a decision, according to Hick’s Law. This indicates that, in product design, designers should strive to reduce the number of decisions users must make in order to use a product. As an illustration, such outcomes can be accomplished by reducing menus and options, making prudent use of defaults, and structuring user flows with care.

According to one interpretation of Hick’s Law, the more complicated a design is, the longer it will take for someone to master it. This latter understanding of complications has ramifications for industrial design regarding the simplification and usability of items. In general, a takeaway idea may be that designers should strive to limit the number of design elements and make those elements as self-explanatory as feasible.

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How users can benefit from Hick’s law integrations

To simplify the idea of this law even further, the more options a person has, the longer it will take them to make a decision. This idea behind options suggests that designers should attempt to decrease the number of decisions users must make while designing a product. Carefully designing user journeys is arguably not only a best practice towards accomplishing the latter idea but also one that’s been researched and rationalized with various approaches, frameworks, and methods.

User experience (UX) design has incorporated Hick’s law since it is congruent with how humans digest information. For example, people take longer to make decisions when they must compare and contrast each alternative in order to find the best one. Another set of complications is when it becomes more difficult if the user does not comprehend what each option does or how they interact.

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Here are some Hick’s law principles as a benefit to users:

Designers should aim to decrease and simplify the options available to users, for instance, by grouping items on a screen in a manner that is simply understood or by arranging menus such that all pertinent items are readily available.

Any option offered as part of a product’s interface should be accessible and easily decipherable without requiring input from the user (this includes choices made behind the scenes). In addition, users should not need to trawl through pages of irrelevant material simply to get started; hence, as much information as feasible should be displayed upfront.

Obviously, this is not always achievable; for sophisticated procedures with numerous steps or adaptations, it may make sense to offer multiple versions, each with its own set of features and constraints (although these may add to the complexity). However, simplicity typically produces the most excellent results when deciding which pieces will appear onscreen at any given time, especially during initial setup.

Default choices are effective: whenever possible, default settings should be picked whenever new content is loaded onto screens (e.g., text sizes/fonts, among others). Not only does this approach eliminates the need for users to do specific actions every time they visit certain screens, but it also enables them to keep their attention where it should be: on the task at hand, rather than searching around for previously undetected controls dispersed across an interface.

Screens should be as immersive as feasible; this means removing any distractions, such as ads or other content that has no bearing on the current activity, as much as possible. Doing so will make it easier for them to remain focused on the action onscreen and less likely to become distracted by unnecessary pictures or sounds.

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Focus user attention where it matters most: when developing an interface, keep in mind which elements should bear the burden of user engagement, like those directly responsible for accomplishing tasks or achieving certain objectives. For example, if a product requires users to fill out forms before taking any other action, selecting from a large number of input fields may only account for a small portion of overall activity (whereas making selections from within those fields may consume more than half of the time a user spends interacting with the software.)

Ensure that all critical information is readily visible and accessible at a glance: conceal anything that isn’t necessary to assist users in completing their work, like no unnecessary details and no distractions. Also, make it as simple as possible for people to access the controls they require without having to scroll through various pages or view multiple screens from varying angles.

Display helpful prompts as needed: rather than bombarding users with needless instructions (i.e., on every screen), present just the essential helpful hints or direct cues that will get users back on track if they wander from the intended path while using your product. However, this should not be overdone, as excessive guidance can actually hinder user flow and engagement. With sufficient regularity across an interface, nudges should be sufficient for setting respectful boundaries without being invasive in terms of privacy and data gathering techniques.

Parting Thoughts

Hick’s law is an approach that helps designers create products with fewer decision points and more intuitive interfaces. Users will feel more in control of their interactions with your product if you adhere to these guidelines.

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Anil Tilbe


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