Learnability in Web Design: 5 Best Practices



Have you ever considered improving the learnability of your product or website? Perhaps it’s your first time reading about the concept of learnability. It’s not an easy task to build a learnable website, as it requires some experimentation and A/B testing.

Learnability’s goal is to design a clear interface that users can quickly pick up and understand. Ideally, there’s no need for documentation to educate your users on how to use your product.

Luckily, many techniques exist to create a learnable interface. This article shows you five best practices you can use to provide a more learnable interface to your users.

  1. consistency
  2. feedback
  3. sticking to known UI elements
  4. familiarity
  5. storification

But first, let’s make the point clear why learnability matters.

Learnability in web design

Why Does Learnability Matter?

Now, why does learnability matter? There are various reasons why you should consider providing a more learnable user interface.

First of all, users can adopt a new interface much quicker. Therefore, they can accomplish their goal using your tool much quicker. In other words, they can receive more value from your tool. Moreover, there’s little need for documentation or an extensive support center. Your goal is to reduce the number of support requests by providing a clear interface.

That’s not all! Think about customer experience. A user who can quickly learn your tool will have a better experience. In the end, the user wants to receive value within the least amount of time possible. They don’t want to spend a lot of time learning a new tool.

Lastly, learnability matters for your retention rate. A complex interface will scare users. Often, they’ll look for easier alternatives that provide them with the same value.

Now that we understand the importance of learnability, let’s explore five best practices to enhance learnability.

1. Consistency

First, let’s discuss the importance of consistency. Google has nailed consistency through its Material Design to give all of its products a similar look. Therefore, when users switch between Google’s products, it’s much easier to understand how the new product works.

Why? Users have seen this design before and know how to interact with it. Let’s compare the interface of both Google Drive and Gmail. Note the similarities in the positioning of elements such as the search bar, menu, and action button.

Elements in Google Drive

For example, Google Drive has a big call to action button with the text “New” to create a new file or folder. If we compare this with Gmail, we find the same call to action button “Compose” to create a new email. This allows a user who’s new to Gmail but frequently uses Google Drive to quickly understand the purpose of this large button.

The Gmail interface

In short, consistent interfaces are predictable interfaces. This predictability leads to learnable patterns. This applies to everything, ranging from sidebar menus to icon usage, or even link color.

2. Feedback

Feedback is one of those keywords you find in every UI design book. One of the most rudimental forms of feedback is hyperlink feedback.

A hyperlink can have three different states. First of all, a hyperlink sits in its normal state. When the user hovers the hyperlink with its cursor, the link color changes or the user sees a small transition animation. This small feedback moment tells the user that the element is clickable. Once the hyperlink has been clicked, you’ll see its active state. Again, this is a form of feedback to tell the user that the click request has been received and is being processed.

Three different button states: normal, hover and active

Feedback can be very subtle. We refer to this as micro-interactions. Micro-interactions can take the shape of:

  • animations or transition effects
  • color changes
  • a checkbox being checked

These micro-interactions are crucial, as a user needs evidence that what they’ve done affected the page. Imagine you click a button to submit a form and the button doesn’t provide any sort of feedback. In other words, the page remains static. I bet you’ll hit the submit button a second time because you didn’t receive any evidence of your actions.

Therefore, be kind, and provide feedback to your users. It will make their experience so much nicer and less confusing.

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Learnability in Web Design: 5 Best Practices
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