Jacob's Law of web usability

Jacob’s Law says that users expect your website to work the same way as all the other websites they know. Does this mean that you should not try new things? Absolutely not. But it means that you should stick to conventions if you want your visitors to interact with your website and your brand without a second of hesitation.

Years ago, I met with a young entrepreneur to discuss his new venture, selling a specialty vacuum cleaner. Along with other things, he wanted to ditch the traditional menu navigation and have the website completely different. I advised him against it, explaining that he is better off sticking to conventions or people will not understand how his website works, and he will lose them as clients. His response was, “If they don’t understand my website, I don’t want them as my customers.” Well, that is probably the most childish response I have ever heard.

Jacob’s Law was coined by Jacob Nielsen, the principal of the Nielsen Norman Group, and a renowned usability expert. He says that people spend the majority of their time on websites OTHER than yours. When they arrive on your website, they expect that it will work the same way.

Don't risk confusing, even turning away your visitors. Instead, take advantage of the existing mental models. Use use proven elements, layouts, functionality to offer a great user experience. Otherwise, your visitors may hit the back button before they give your website a chance.

If you would like to learn about the main website usability principles, grab this book – Don’t Make Me Think. A Common Sense Approach to Web and Mobile Usability, by Steven Krug.


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