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Wolly mammoths, Web sites and 7 +/- 2

December 8, 2009 - 3 Comments

Web design professionals often work to George A Miller’s credo that humans can best manipulate “seven (plus or minus two)” items in their working memory. This 7 +/- 2 guideline isn’t a bad model to follow for keeping things simple on Web sites, where we all know that spewing your visitors with too much information will overwhelm them and could cause them to run away to the next site.

But in his latest column, Web usability expert Jacob Nielsen posits that 7 +/- 2 only goes so far as a guideline. In addition to reducing noise, it’s important to focus on making abstract concepts more concrete and accessible.

Nielsen’s article on Short-Term Memory and Web Usability is a short, interesting read.


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  1. Great article! I appreciate that good web design is more about good customer experience these days. Interesting comment in the article about coupon codes, who wants to buy something full price when there's a field for a coupon?! Not I!

  2. The 7 +/- 2 guideline is something really important if you are going to design a commercial website. By the way, thx for sharing the Nielsen-Link, Martin.

  3. I have never heard of the 7 +/- 2 guideline before but it makes sense, and you were right about Jakob Nielsen's article as it was a very enjoyable read :)