Design Thoughts

How to avoid Cognitive Overload for your Users

Nowadays, users want to digest the information you're presenting to them faster than ever, and swiftly move on.

Marc Andrew
Sep 10, 2020
2 min read
Photo by Caleb Woods / Unsplash

Cognitive overload. In UX circles you may have heard this term mentioned before.

User’s brains are definitely wired a little differently in this present day. I’ve mentioned here before about the Scan method that the majority of users now adhere to, so we need to make sure that what we’re presenting to the user is well, erm, very scannable.

Users want to digest the information you're presenting to them faster than ever, and move on.

Let me explain some more...

Always try to stick to common Design Patterns.

A few key, no-brainer points to remember, are having a defined style that runs throughout your product, choosing adequate white-space to give everything some breathing room, and, whenever possible stick to common design patterns.

That’s not to say that all products that you produce should go down the route of having characterless design that get’s frowned upon by many a Twitter vocalist “All sites are looking the damn same!”.

No, you can still bring originality, and a strong design presence to the work that you create, but just do it in a way that doesn’t forgo usability, and brings about cognitive overload for the user.

Don't overwhelm the user with too much information.

If they have to stop or think where that certain button may or may not take them to, then you’re mentally overwhelming that user at key points inside of your product, and it’s not working to the best of its ability.

Follow the tried and tested method. Create a comp, test a prototype, and then little by little strip away the superfluous until you have something that performs as it should, reduces the cognitive resources of the user down to the bare minimum, but not to the disadvantage of usability in any way.

Find that balance in your projects and you can keep the user around for longer, reduce those dastardly high bounce rates, and get the user to take the right actions, in the right places, at the right time.

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