While most ‘laws’ have historic roots, Jakob’s Law originated from the heart of Nielsen Normal Group (NNG). Co-founded with the former VP of research, NNG operated as a consulting firm. They studied users, trying to understand how operating systems can design themselves better.
Jakob Nielsen was not just a usability expert. With references from news websites like the “web’s usability czar” and “the usability Pope”, it was easy to see why he was influential. With his influence, he popularised Jakob’s law.
“Users spend most of their time on other sites. This means that users prefer your site to work the same way as all the other sites they already know.” — Jakob’s Law
Jakob’s Law states: “Users spend most of their time on other sites. This means that users prefer your site to work the same way as all the other sites they already know.”
It essentially talks about design patterns. These are patterns we see across different applications and websites. For instance, Google and Yahoo! have its search bar placed in the middle of a sea of white.
User interface and experience designers typically adhere to design patterns. It is the reason why we expect our ‘send message’ icon to be on the bottom-right side of our screen, depending on screen size.
How jarring would it be to have an application that places it on the top right?
Having typical design patterns meant shortening the learning process. Users familiarise themselves quickly with a site that looks similar to one they’ve been to. In that same vein, having a different design pattern meant steeper learning curves. Worse, the user may not prefer the new site.
By providing familiar design patterns, users can quickly assimilate and familiarise. Though the Jakob’s Law may be talking about usability, it evidences underlying human psychology.