Smashing Magazine “Reducing Cognitive Overload For A Better User Experience”


Reducing Cognitive Overload For A Better User Experience

When it comes to usability, this author considers web design in terms of an invisible guide that carries the viewer through the site without any hesitation. The article explains that there should not be anything called “cognitive overload”, or a situation where a visitor’s  “working memory receives more information than it can handle comfortably, leading to frustration and comprised decision-making.”

This is something important to know when designing a website for not only your target audience, but all audiences. Finding the information the visitor needs should be effortless and not take much, if any, time at all. An example the author has is reducing menu items to between five and nine, otherwise the viewer will feel cluttered and unorganized. This is based on the theory of working memory, and how the brain can only focus on a certain amount of stimuli at a time, and then process it.

Further down the article, the author lists a number of lessons for web design. This includes the fact that pages should be self-explanatory, which is a big takeaway for me as a beginning web designer because based on my past reviews of websites, the Starbucks website was not really self-explanatory. However, Apple was clear in defining their purpose in selling iPhones, iPads, Apple Watches etc.

In order to have a clean, organized and easy to use website there should be no unnecessary actions, according to Halarewich. This forces the viewer to make more effort and work harder to focus. Overstimulation is another issue that is cognitive overload and should be addressed. If there are too many images, gifs, colors, or flashing lights, it can scare away the visitor. This is when balance is important. If there is a right amount of color, movement, and images, there shouldn’t be a problem with cognitive overload.


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