10 UX Laws in their Simplest Form

In this article, we’ll break down the most important UX laws in an easy-to-digest way and provide actionable takeaways that you can apply to your work right away. Let’s cut to the chase!

Jump to a UX law:

  1. Jakob’s law
  2. Fitt’s law
  3. Hick’s law
  4. Miller’s law
  5. Postel’s law
  6. Peak-end rule
  7. Aesthetic-usability effect
  8. von Restorff effect
  9. Tesler’s law
  10. Doherty’s threshold

1. Jakob’s law

Short explanation:

Users are used to the design patterns of the apps and websites they already use. So, they want your app or website to work similarly to them.

Takeaway:

You don’t have to reinvent the wheel as a UX designer.

How to apply this UX law?

  1. Users have expectations towards applications (mental models). By identifying these and leveraging them, you cut down on learning time, so users can execute tasks faster and focus on what’s important. (And you also save time.)
  2. Follow established design conventions, UX patterns, and information architecture to create more intuitive and user-friendly experience for new users.
  3. When doing competitive analysis, identify matching patterns and implement those into your design.
  4. You can depart when necessary, but always make sure to test heavily.

2. Fitt’s law

Short explanation:

The time and effort needed to reach an interactive area is based on its distance and size. The less time and effort needed, the better the UX.

Takeaway:

Make touch targets (buttons, links, and other interactive elements) big enough and separate them with ample space.

How to apply this UX law?

  1. Make touch targets large enough so users can easily tap or click them.
  2. Leave enough space between touch targets for confident tapping or clicking and to avoid accidental taps or clicks.
  3. Place touch targets into areas where they make sense and can be easily reached.

3. Hick’s law

Short explanation:

The time it takes to make a decision increases with the number of choices available.

Takeaway:

Good UX design is shaved down to its simplest comprehensible version.

How to apply this UX law?

  1. Whenever possible, minimize choices to make decisions easier for users.
  2. Break up larger tasks into smaller ones so users never feel overwhelmed.
  3. You can further help users by highlighting critical information.
  4. Eliminate everything that doesn’t help users reach their goal.
  5. Use progressive onboarding to familiarize users with your product.

4. Miller’s law

Short explanation:

Most people can only keep about 7 (plus or minus 2) items in their short-term memory.

Takeaway:

Whenever sensible, simplify your design so users have an easier time processing.

How to apply this UX law?

  1. Break down and organize information into smaller chunks, categories, and sections.
  2. Always prioritize and highlight the most important information.
  3. Reveal information gradually throughout the user journey to avoid information overload.
  4. Utilize visual clues like size, color, placement, and spacing to establish a clear information hierarchy and stick to it throughout your design.
  5. When sensible, limit the number of choices to avoid decision fatigue.

5. Postel’s law

Short explanation:

Apps should accept a wide range of inputs while providing a concise output.

Takeaway:

Make your design robust but flexible.

How to apply this UX law?

  1. Make room for the various input and interactions users might make in your app or website.
  2. When users provide invalid inputs, give them descriptive error messages and clear guidance towards the correct input.
  3. Consider including fallback options and alternative actions for scenarios when users might not follow the desired pattern.
  4. Be lenient with what you accept. The UX of your product should be more important than adhering to standards.
  5. Your design should work on all popular devices and operating systems.

6. Peak-end rule

Short explanation:

Users judge their experience based on the most intense and final moments of the user journey rather than the average of the entire user journey.

Takeaway:

How users remember an experience will determine whether they will use the product again or recommend it to others.

How to apply this UX law?

  1. Utilize UX methods (like journey mapping) based on research to identify the most intense and emotional moments throughout the user journey and make them as delightful as possible.
  2. Add visually stunning elements or a moment of surprise during the peak moments and the end of the user journey.
  3. Consider color, imagery, animations, and micro-interactions and their emotional impact and use them sensibly during crucial moments.
  4. Still, make sure that the peak and end stages match the overall tone and theme of your product and service. It should all work together.

7. Aesthetic-usability effect

Short explanation:

Users perceive beautiful designs as more intuitive and functional, even if they have usability issues.

Takeaway:

While UX is super important, you should never discount the importance of stunning UI. If people consider your design beautiful, they will have a better response to it.

How to apply this UX law?

  1. If you’re in charge of both UX and UI, create visually appealing designs that are on trend. UI affects UX
  2. Simplicity is always the safest route. Simple, clean designs have universal appeal.
  3. Consistency plays a huge role in what we consider pretty. Building a design system will have a huge payout when it comes to consistency.
  4. Sometimes you can make small concessions for aesthetics and vice versa. 
  5. Key points to focus on: spacing, alignment, visual hierarchy, typography, and colors.

8. von Restorff effect

Short explanation:

When something stands out, it’s more likely to be remembered.

Takeaway:

Make the most important elements of your design visually distinct to enhance user recall.

How to apply this UX law?

  1. Use distinct colors (especially depth) for important design elements (like buttons) to make them stand out from the rest of your design.
  2. Choose distinctive icons for actions and information to help users recognize and remember them.
  3. Create visual separation by using proper spacing (or isolation) around important design elements. 
  4. Add smooth animations to important design elements to reinforce memorability.
  5. Increase the size of important design elements, since larger elements are more noticeable and memorable.
  6. Be frugal with emphasizing to avoid design elements cannibalizing each other.

9. Tesler’s law

Short explanation:

After a certain point, you cannot further reduce your product’s complexity.

Takeaway:

Every product has a certain level of complexity that you can’t get rid of so you have to find ways to always work around it.

How to apply this UX law?

  1. Simplify the user journey to reduce the number of clicks required to reach your most important features and information.
  2. Get rid of duplicate features, options, steps, and copy in the user flow. Provide only the necessary choices and actions.
  3. Give immediate, clear feedback to every user action.
  4. Try and reduce the amount of effort users have to make. Use “defaults” and pre-filled forms whenever possible.
  5. Always think of the primary goals of your users and prioritize their usability.

10. Doherty’s threshold

Short explanation:

Interaction between users and your app or website should be fast enough that neither has to wait for the other.

Takeaway:

Reduce or repurpose wait times and increase response time in your app/website.

How to apply this UX law?

  1. Work closely with developers to optimize wait and response time in your app.
  2. Add animations and feedback to the wait/response time that is impossible to eliminate to reassure users of what’s happening.

The 4 main themes in UX laws:

You have probably noticed that there are common threads and themes shared by these UX laws. Indeed, we can summarize some of the common themes into 4 points:

  1. Prioritize simplicity, minimize choices, and optimize interactions for a smooth user experience.
  2. Present information in manageable chunks to cater to the limitations of users’ working memory.
  3. Embrace familiar design patterns and communication for a consistent and predictable user experience.
  4. Recognize and leverage the influence of aesthetics, emotional peaks, and standout elements.

Hopefully, this article helped you understand even the more complicated UX laws. If so, don’t forget to showcase your knowledge in your UX portfolio! UXfolio, the portfolio builder made for UX professionals, provides the perfect stage for your knowledge to shine. It comes with UX-specific sections and features that will accelerate your portfolio-building process and highlight skills and expertise in action. Try UXfolio for free: start building today!

UX career expert & creative @UXfolio. I've been participating in and writing about UX design for 4 years. In my free time, I read, listen to opera, and work out.

Hit me up at akos@blog.uxfol.io

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