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The best user experience is the one you don’t even notice. At first glance, it seems amazingly smooth and simple. However, such a design usually has tonnes of designer’s effort behind the simple surface.

The designer’s main mission is to create something that gives users a straight path to their goal without making them think about the interface. Their job is to clear all the obstacles users can face when interacting with a product. Eliminating the memory load is one of the most important things to do in order to improve UX.

Neuroscience has progressed over the last decades. However, we still can’t give an exact answer to how human memory actually works. This is the most amazing data processor and while we can’t see or touch it, it determines our interaction with the outer world.

Memory can naturally organize data and even sort it by folders. And it’s, obviously, a very interesting research area for designers who want to create intuitive products that feel like a second nature to use.

Basic understanding of human memory

This amazing data storage has one outstanding feature: it gives us access to collected data when it’s needed. It’s able to preserve sets of data like ZIP-files and unpack them in particular situations. One of the designer’s main tasks is to activate certain sets of data in the user’s memory that are necessary for smooth interaction with the product.

Memory is traditionally divided into three main types:

Sensory memory. It’s often known as the iconic memory and preserves data perceived with our physical senses for a short time.

Short-term memory. It allows us to keep some data remembered for a short period of time without repetitions.

Long-term memory is a more persistent store of knowledge and memories of experiences — facts, concepts, ideas, names, images, sounds, voices, places, emotional feeling states, and so on.

Memory in user interface design

Short-term memory presents a special interest for designers. At this level of memorization, the cognitive load is light and interaction is faster. In this case, if design evokes something from the long-term memory, we feel it like a longer interaction that takes more mental effort when using a product.

Hints for a memory-friendly UX

No matter, it’s a user interface for mobile or web, that’s a great hint for both to highlight the links users have already visited with another color. This simplifies the user’s life since it’s not necessary for them to remember which pages they’ve recently visited.

Keep the focus on the most important information in the UI

If you want to make a user feel comfortable while interacting with a product you should care about the user cognitive load. Too many distracting elements on the interface can overload a user.

According to Miller’s law, an average person can hold 7 (+/- 2) items in their working memory. Obviously, the fewer elements an interface contains, the easier the user’s interaction will be, and users will reach their goals on your website more easily.

Miller’s law also tells us that the human mind perceives information in chunks. Chunking is the process of grouping information together with related by perceptual features. It helps a designer to breakdown the content into different groups according to certain visual hierarchy. It makes easier for a user to understand information and adapt it to his/her own concepts.

Keep in mind, if you need to use a lot of information, better divide it into more steps to simplify the user journey.