User experience for B2B SaaS: laws of UX in practice

Laws of UX applied in practice that I found around us


Nav Hariharan

3 years ago | 5 min read

User Experience was a key part of my internship project. Specifically B2B SaaS UX. In an attempt to get my basics right, I happened to go through and learn about the laws of UX. This is my attempt to document my learnings and how I connected them to what I saw in practice.

Laws of UX

UX is a field that takes it roots from both psychology and from visual design. It is about making aesthetically pleasing products while making sure users feel good using them. Drawing from psychology, there are a number of principles and laws used to make good experiences. These laws have been put together really nicely as the Laws of UX. These are the subset of psychological principles that can be useful when building user experiences in products. It is a beautiful and well-organized site. Definitely would recommend visiting it at least once, even if only to admire the site itself.

Photo by Sigmund on Unsplash
Photo by Sigmund on Unsplash

While the laws themselves are explained well, I would like to go over some of the key takeaways from the laws that I found useful when building products.

● Minimize number of choices users need to make, for quicker actions. In case a particular feature has many sets of choices, break down the steps and show incrementally. To ensure there is minimal dropoff, highlight the recommended sets of actions, even have them selected by default. This follows directly from Hicks law

● Showing progress bars that tell users how close they are to their end goal helps motivate them to complete it. Even if the progress bars are not accurately indicative of time remaining, it gives users something to keep them occupied. All these laws help explain why this is important — Goal gradient effect, Doherty Threshold and Zeigarnik effect

● When an action has a large response time, products should give users two levels of feedback. First, an initial indication that the action has started, followed by an indication that processing is being done and which remains until the action has completed. This will keep users engaged and happy as per the Doherty Threshold

● Use patterns and experiences that users are familiar from other apps. Common icons, shortcuts, gestures should work as they do in all popular apps, which reduces learning curve. For example, Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V should work wherever there is any potential to copy and paste items, it should not be used for any other kind of action since the association is so ingrained in users’ minds. This follows from the Jakobs law

● Users are typically averse to change and take time to adapt. When changing the UX or behaviour of an existing product, make changes incrementally to not overwhelm them. It would be good to allow users to continue with an older version for some time when making a change, with reminders before that date approaches. This is also a direct effect of the Jakobs law

● Text or form elements that are closely related are usually placed close together. White space is used as a separator between groups of elements which are not related. This is almost universally seen in good user interfaces, due to the Law of Proximity

● Visually similar items are perceived to be the same or similar in function. Good user interfaces have visual consistency across the whole product. Confirmation buttons all look similar, menu items and sub-menus all follow a common visual pattern. When there is a deviation from these patterns in any one place in the product users get confused — Law of Similarity

● Using tangible references like arrows or lines will help show when items are connected and similar or in order. Sequences of steps users must take, with progress bars are usually represented as connected blocks or arrows. Interfaces like workflow builders leverage this to show paths and connected elements — Law of Uniform Connectedness

● Organize content into smaller chunks while presenting to users, to not overload their short-term memory. Instructions, large segments of text or lists must be presented to users in groups of at max 7 plus 2. Typically, One Time Passwords that users get for security verification and ATM pins are always smaller than 7 due to this very reason. This draws from Millers law (people can only remember 7 plus 2 items at a time)

● Interfaces should be as simple as possible. A particular journey in the product is at its best when there is minimal complexity involved. We should remove as many elements as possible until only the absolutely essential ones are left. There is minimal potential for things to go wrong — Occam’s razor

● Focus majority of efforts on screens or functions users use the most. We need to recognize the areas where users spend most of their time on the product, which is where analytics and data comes into play. This is well-known as the 80–20 rule or the Pareto principle

● Focus on the most intense experiences of the product as well as the end of the journey. Add most values and delight the users at these points. Try to provide best possible experience when users face some negative consequences, as this is what users would remember the most. This means special focus must be given to the user experience when handling errors, when users are getting set up and onboarded, when users first realize value from the product and after they have completed their objective. — Peak-end rule

● Good user experience involves being flexible and empathetic in accepting users’ inputs. The system should plan for all possible scenarios and reliably handle them. When something provided by the user is not within allowed limits, the system should give feedback, explaining what is allowed and what users need to do — Postel’s law

● Place most important items in the first and last positions in a list, less important ones in the middle. People tend to remember the first and last things the most as per Serial Position effect

● System might have some complexity that cannot be reduced. There will always be certain actions or decisions that might need to be taken while using a system. We need to make sure the system carries most of the burden of this instead of users’ memory. This is taken care through handholding, walkthroughs and contextual help — Teslers law

In lists of options like a menu or dropdown, make most important items visually distinct so that they could stand out. This would be remembered and noticed the most, leading users along the journey we might want them to take — Von Resteroff effect

This post is meant to be a record for myself, of my journey and what I picked up along the way. If it helps anyone else on this same journey, nothing like it. I hope to be back with more of my learning real soon.


Created by

Nav Hariharan

PM and Tech, Co-founder of LonePack - youth mental health focused non-profit, Optimist, Startup enthusiast







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