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Design principles for reducing cognitive load

Every time you visit a website, a process of learning is initiated in the brain. Whether it’s the navigation, layout, or that auto-rotating image slider on the homepage, your brain has to learn how to use the site while keeping track of the reason you came there in the first place. The mental effort required during this time is called cognitive load. Now the catch: the working memory in which this information is processed and stored is limited. Your brain begins to slow down or even abandon the task at hand when it receives more information than it can handle. Although cognitive load isn’t entirely avoidable, designers must strive to manage and accommodate these limits.

  1. Avoid unnecessary elements

  2. Leverage common design patterns

  3. Eliminate unnecessary tasks

  4. Minimize choices

  5. Display choices as a group

  6. Strive for readability

  7. Use iconography with caution