Search anything:

The Principle of Familiarity in UX Design

Binary Tree book by OpenGenus

Open-Source Internship opportunity by OpenGenus for programmers. Apply now.

In this article at OpenGenus, we will learn about one of the five most important principles in UX Design - The Principle of Familiarity in UX Design.

In Short:

The more familiar a design of a UI is to users, the more easily they navigate and focus on a product you sell. If an app is a no-brainer - it only taks a few clicks to get a task done, people will more likely to choose it over others and recommend it to their friends and family.

Table of contents:

  1. Familiar Design
  2. Fresh Design
  3. When to Refresh Design

Familiar Design

Human Nature

Human brains are hardwired to be lazy. We prefer to expend as little energy as possible for survival purposes in the ancient time. Ideas and information that align with what we already know are preferred and more easily adopted by our brains. Thus familiarity plays an important role in user experiences - we love familiarity, and familarity creates closeness and intimacy.

Furthermore, we like to stay in our comfort zones. Something familiar makes us feel at ease. It's an innate inertia that increases the likelihood of us to react more positively to information we know previously.

Reduce Learning Curve and Improve Efficiency

For most users, they care mainly about how fast they can get things done, but not about the design. Would you spend a long time to get a task done on your computer, or get a task done quickly and spend the rest of the time having fun?

In Apple's Human Interface Guidelines, Apple states that:

When virtual objects and actions in an app are metaphors for familiar experiences—whether these experiences are rooted in the real world or the digital world—users quickly grasp how to use the app.

We can use this idea to reduce learning curve. For example, using a pen icon means editing, a trash bin icon means deleting. Using these symbols that are pervalent in our daily lives removes the need for users to re-learn part of a new app.

Ease of Use and Happy Consumers

First, let's look at the role of cognitive processes in familiarity. Cognitive processes include memory, attention and perception. Familiarity ties to cognitive processes. A familiar design deepends the memory of a product components, increases the perception of its interactions and captures the customers' attention.

When you provide a new product that nobody has never used before, if the design of your app page is similar to those popular apps, users will spend most of their time learning about your product rather than wasting time navigating around getting frustrated in order to collect the information they need.

Therefore, a higher engagement, satisfaction and loyaly is created. A positive user experience could lead to a happy customer who decideds the product worthes their hard-earned money.

Higher User Retention Rate

Psychologically, firmilarity also stimulate emotional connection and trust between users and a product. Such connections make users feel more at ease during interactions. In consequence, the connections are preceived as trustworthy and reliable. Therefore, it encourages users to revisit the site and reuse the service, building customer loyalty and retention.

Designer Benefits

By using existing popular design patterns, it helps UX designers to save time on design flows and focus on creating interfaces that are aesthetically pleasing and coherent. This way, UX designers utilize talents and skills in what they love and cunsumers get a more eye-pleasing experiences surfing a site. It's a win-win situation.

Fresh Design

Jakob's Law of Internet User Experience

A UX designer might get tired of his webpage because of the long exposure hours, thus wants a fresh design. However, an individual usually spend 2~3 minutes on a website. Based on Jakob's Law of Internet User Experience, users won't get tired of a site as soon as a UX designer.

Jakob's Law of Internet User Experience: Users spend most of their time on other sites.

So a fresh design is not needed unless the user experience of an old design has become too complex and difficult to utilize. For example, the old UI design of Microsoft Office has such a complex architecture, its user have a hard time to follow the menus and dialog boxes. MS re-architected its 20-year-old user experience in 2007 and has been a success.

Human Beings are Creatures of Habits, Habits Create Automation

For a very popular app, its users might expose to its UI for hours daily. (How many hours do you spend on amazon.com v.s. weather.com?) This type of users are called experienced users, and have their user experiences dominated by skilled performance. The more an individual relies on skilled performance, the more they depend on having routine behaviors automated.

Since people are creatures of habits, having ubiquitious designs allows users to follow intuitions when they navigate. This type of designs lead to automated behaviors. Thus, high-frequency users also prefer a familiar design.

Distractions Decrease User Experiences

It makes people psychologically uncomfortable when they try something novel - people don't like changes. When it takes extra efforts to learn to use a new thing, it takes away the precious brain power we have in our busy life. The unease and the efforts distract us from focusing on experiencing a product.

When to Refresh Design

Since human nature dislike changes, whenever a redesign is released, customers will complain. Even when a component is moved to the opposite corner, there are complaints. Nevertheless, if a new design has better usability, users will adapt and like it. Therefore, Customer complaints are not a reason to avoid redesigns.

Redesigns are not good ideas for the purpose to purely to stay fresh or to impress. Remember, the main purpose of a website is to solve a customer's problem as quickly as possible. Therefore, it's best to evolve a product with minor changes instead of a complete new design.

The Principle of Familiarity in UX Design
Share this