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#24 - What is Jakob's Law?

Sent the October 20th
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Article written by
Juan Jesús Millo

Understanding Jakob's law

How many times have you entered a website and found literally nothing? We are not only talking about the architecture itself, but about the arrangement of the elements and their choreography, the layout. Why don't you find what you are looking for? Is it your fault? No.

Everyone tends to blame themselves when they don't understand a page, but unless it's the first time you've seen a website, I doubt it has much to do with your cognitive abilities when surfing. This is where Jakob's law comes in, which says "Users spend most of their time on other sites, and they prefer your site to work the same way as all the other sites they already know".

Jakob's mental model

Jakob Nielsen, the web usability guru, commented in 2000 in the article "End of Web Design" that users have a tendency to develop mental models based on previous and accumulated experience of other sites, what does this mean?

A mental model is, in Jakob's words, "what the user believes about the system in question", that is, how the user believes the system works; this concept is closely related to affordance. If we generate a mental model, and it coincides with the real use of the system, there will be no friction when learning it, but if it does not coincide, it will create frustration because the system will not work as expected.

If we are able to align the mental models of our target (through surveys, user persons, design conventions...), the user will be able to focus on performing the task, not on learning the system.

In conclusion, if we use design patterns and conventions, align the user's mental model with our product, and make incremental changes little by little in our design (Snapchat case), we will decrease the friction when using it, lowering the error rate and increasing thelearnability.

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