We've all been there before. We're trying to use a website or app, and we just can't seem to figure out how to do what we need to do. The buttons are confusing, the options aren't clear, and worst of all, there's just too much information on the screen.

What is cognitive load?

Cognitive load is the amount of mental effort required to process information. In UX design, cognitive load refers to the amount of effort required for a user to understand and use a product or interface. Designers aim to reduce cognitive load by simplifying interfaces and making them easy to use. One way designers can reduce cognitive load is by minimizing distractions and keeping users focused on their task at hand. Too much information on a screen can cause decision fatigue and lead users astray from their original goal.

What are some ways to reduce cognitive load in a design?

There are a few ways designers can reduce cognitive load in their designs:

Concise Language

One way is by using clear and concise language. This means avoiding technical jargon or excessively long sentences. Instead, use simple words and short phrases that users will be able to quickly grasp.

UX Clear Language Do & Don't Example

Visual Cues

Another way is through visual cues such as icons or illustrations. These can help break up text and provide users with a quick way to understand what a button or section is for.

UX Visual Cues Do & Don't Example

Remove Unnecessary Elements

Removing unnecessary elements from a design can also help reduce cognitive load. This includes anything that doesn’t directly support the user’s goals. For example, if a user is trying to purchase a product from an ecommerce site, the checkout process should be as streamlined as possible. Any extraneous elements, such as links to other pages or sections, can just add to the user’s cognitive load and make it more difficult to complete the task at hand.

UX Unnecessary Elements Do & Don't Example

Visual Hierarchy

Finally, designers can use grouping and hierarchy to their advantage. Grouping related elements together can help users better understand the relationship between them. And using hierarchy to highlight the most important information can help users quickly determine what they need to pay attention to.

UX Visual Hierarchy Do & Don't Example

Final Thoughts

An amazing user experience is the one where the user doesn't even realize it exists. It's so natural that it seems like there was no design involved at all. To imagine such an experience is easy; to create one is extremely difficult. But if you don't have one, you risk losing potential customers.

Too many online platforms make the mistake of overdoing the copy of design elements. This has the opposite effect of what they want: instead of increasing conversions, it causes cognitive overload in visitors and actually reduces conversions. Less is more when it comes to creating a user-friendly experience.