Conclusion in 3 Bullet Points
🌍 The web is big. Your site is small.
🔄 Users have habits.
⚠️ Break habits, lose users.
Jakob’s Law of the Internet User Experience states, “Users spend most of their time on other websites, so they expect your site to work like all the other sites they already know.” I formulated this law in 2000, and it has been proven many times ever since.
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Even though the Law refers explicitly to websites, it holds for any situation where users encounter a wide variety of designs without being tied to only using a single system for the vast majority of their time. Mobile apps are such an example where Jakob’s Law applies by extension.
There are three main drivers of Jakob’s Law:
- The web (and similar domains, like mobile apps) offers a teeming multitude of individual services, and users flitter between them, only allocating a small percentage of their time to any particular website. Your website is but a grain of sand in this majestic universe.
- Each user’s user experience is constructed from the totality of what they encounter across the many websites they visit over many years. Any slight variations are ignored, and the commonalities engrave themselves on the user’s brain. Users’ mental model of “the web” builds slowly over time, piece by piece, through reinforcement from those design patterns they often encounter.
- Now that users have a mental model synthesized from most other websites, they apply it to form expectations for any other website — such as yours. If your website complies with these expectations, it’s easy to use. If the design violates users’ expectations, they will use it wrong and get into trouble