Organizing information in interface design
Design principle — User goal, cognitive load, chunking, progressive disclosure, and more!
Is it better to use a card or just a simple list on this page? Can I validate this illustration for the users? Does a rounded corner better than a sharp corner? In this post, I want to share a few principles around an interface that have been helping me make decisions.
1) Always start with user tasks and goals. When designing the interface, remember that your users don’t necessarily want to do the task. For example, on Netflix, the goal is to get entertained. The users don’t necessarily want to scroll through the list of movies. The users want to get a movie that can be enjoyed. Write this down and find a way to help users to do that.
2) Cognitive load is expensive but often invisible. Lower cognitive load can minimize error and frustration. Cognitive load is the amount of cognition activity to accomplish a goal. Avoid visual clutter such as meaningless ornaments or flashy animations that don’t help users to accomplish the goal.
3) Chunking the information when you can. Chunking is a technique to combine much information into a few units or chunks, so users can process and remember it easier. 8778023 is harder to remember than 877-8023. A human’s short-term memory capacity is low.
4) But don’t chunk reference-related tasks. Like all principles, you should apply them in the right context. Chunking is useful, but it’s unnecessary to apply the technique to dictionaries for example. When people look in a dictionary, they don’t remember anything, they’re looking for something. Any task that requires memorization could benefit from chunking. But don’t use it for browsing-related tasks or reference-related tasks.