Aesthetic-Usability Effect

“Beauty over function.” In 1995, researchers at the Hitachi Design Center studied the “aesthetic-usability effect” with an ATM. A less usable but good-looking ATM interface beat easier-to-use UIs with poor aesthetics. The researchers found that a positive emotional response from visual design makes the user more tolerant of issues—such as software bugs, poor latency, or […]

Zeignarik Effect

In the 1920s, Soviet psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik observed a waiter taking orders at a restaurant. When prompted, the waiter could easily recall items from unpaid orders but couldn’t recite a single item after the patrons had paid their bills. Zeigarnik published her seminal work, hereafter referred to by her namesake. The Zeigarnik Effect states that […]

Faster Horses

People claim that if Henry Ford built what people asked for, we wouldn’t have cars; we’d have faster horses. This statement is more myth than truth, but the idea holds water. When I worked at GE, my users wanted “more storage” or “faster file transfer” when designing gas turbines. But these solutions were costly and […]

Jakob’s Law & Decorum

Jakob Nielsen had a simple principle in web design: People expect your site to work like all others. People spend 99% of their time on other websites, so conforming to the model of those sites will make your site more palatable. For instance, social sites have a log-in button in the top right, news sites […]

Seven Plus or Minus Two

At work, I inherited this tool to help people use a poorly designed product. While the long-term solution was to address core issues in the product, this supporting tool had low-hanging fruit, such as glaring usability holes. Rather than preach about these gaps, I leveraged the ever-relevant heuristic from writing: Show, don’t tell.