I Was Wrong: UX Myths
In 2009 I wrote about cognitive load and asked the question, “If users have a working memory limit of approximately seven items, how can you justify twelve global navigation options?”
I’ve been meaning to revisit this, almost since I wrote it. Because I was wrong.
I’ve read more about cognitive load and had a chance to discuss it with some psychologists. Because users don’t have to memorize your navigation, and because they tend to select the first viable option rather than reviewing all choices and then making the optimal selection (this is known as “satisficing”), the seven item “rule” doesn’t apply. Of course, you still have to understand what your visitors’ key tasks will be and help make those possible.
My recent post about trusting research over opinions reminded me that there actually is research behind many of these discussions. Fortunately, there are usability and user experience bloggers helping us find that research.
UXMyths wrote an article citing a number of studies and discussions about the 7 item (+/- 2) rule, which seals the deal for me. Let’s go back to the research.