The human brain retrieves information through Recognition rather than recall
As discussed on the other Nielsen’s heuristics, Consistency and Standards and Match between the system and the real world, a human brain is wired to quickly create and recognize patterns. For that, we have another heuristics called Recognition rather than recall.
Have you noticed, compared to an open-ended answer, how easy it to answer a multiple choice question. Or how recognizing a familiar face is easier than actually recalling the name. This is because to recall something, the brain has to exert that leads to cognitive load. Recall also is a function of time.
Recognition, on the other hand, means you are retrieving information through cues. This can involve multiple senses or a certain context or a story. From the user experience perspective, this is an extremely crucial thing.
Similarly, if you are looking to redesign the interface, it is extremely crucial to make sure that the haul is not so different than the users are having a hard time adopting it because the mental models are obsolete and they no more recognize what they are supposed to do with the current interface.
It’s the sixth guideline of Nielsen’s Heuristics. Put in Nielsen’s words,
Minimize the user’s memory load by making objects, actions, and options visible. The user should not have to remember information from one part of the dialogue to another. Instructions for use of the system should be visible or easily retrievable whenever appropriate.. read this
1. The first method is to Create interfaces that are consistent with their current experiences and mental models. There are certain things that users do in a certain way. Do not reinvent the wheel unnecessarily. You can also do an analysis of the competing products. This way you can see if there are any repeatable UX flows and patterns.
2. The second method is to give them context to remember. For example, an e-commerce website like Amazon show recently viewed items. This helps the user complete a purchase that was halfway.
Almost every messenger application has the chat history, which lets you start the conversation from the point where you’re left it.
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The software Keynote gives its user an option of open recent files. So that users do not struggle with the exact name of the presentation they might have created a few days back.
Do not forget to give your users enough context and cues to help them figure out what they need to do next. If each time, the users have to start afresh, that will make users doubtful and the chances of errors would be higher.