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Intrinsic Cognitive load

Cognitive load are of 3 types
  1. Intrinsic
  2. Extrinsic
  3. Germaine
Points to remember
  • These loads are placed on working memory
  • They don’t happen in isolation. Combined together they contribute to total cognitive load.
  • When cognitive load exceeds working memory capacity user performance suffers
  • So, UX Designers goal is to keep the total cognitive load within the limits of working memory.
  • Managing cognitive load is not a substraction process. Its more of an act of balance.
    • Intrinsic load need to be Managed.
    • Extraneous load need to be Reduced
    • Germaine load need to be increased

Let us look at each of these in detail

Intrinsic load – It is imposed by the inherent complexity of the task at hand. Here complexity means the amount of thought user has to put to accomplish the task.

Amount of thought one need to invest depends on following factors

  • Number of steps
    • Not all task can be shorter.
    • Break single goal into dependable subtasks. Which means  splitting the process into a series of smaller and simpler steps.
    • Eg – Checkout process involve steps like login, billing, payment, verify/edit.
  •  Length of task
    • Lengthy task are bound to cause information overload.
    • To solve this problem task should be broken into smaller chunks. This guides user in perceiving and recalling information more easily. Eg – Chunk lengthy articles & forms.
  • Interaction Effort
    • Unnecessary switching between keyboard and mouse place cognitive burden on user and also break user flow.
    • User should be able to move among interactive elements(form input fields, links) using keyboard.
    • Wherever possible eliminate passive interaction. For eg – consider an interface offering filter option. This filter option has 3 select box & 1 “Go” button. Per select box user is required to do 2 clicks. One to open the select dropdown & another make a selection. Here former is passive interaction and later is active interaction. Once he selects the option from first select box directly open the second select box dropdown & so on.
    • This  allows user to focus completely on task & move towards goal completion faster.
  • Number of choices
    • Too many choices lead to choice paralysis.
    • Larger the number of choices higher will be the demand for thought investment on user side.
    • Large number of choices need to managed well. This can be done by ordering it logically, grouping or categorising etc.
    • Don’t show all choices straightaway. Show most preferred 4-5 choices first & rest can be visible on clicking show more link/button

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