Jakob’s Law

Lewis Wake
Thursday 1 September 2022

Jakob’s Law is a principle of user experience design. It states that:

Users spend most of their time on other sites

What does Jakob’s Law mean?

Users prefer your site to work the same way as all the other sites they already know. They require a consistent basis of familiarity.

When society gets a cumulative experience of all the websites in the world, this adds to their understanding of how a website should work, and what are the basic design conventions of the internet.

If your website does the same as most other websites, then when somebody arrives at your site, they’re likely going to know how to use it. The anatomy of a website should be familiar to the user.

Two square outlines interlocking
Jakob’s Law is often simply visualised with two identical squares interlocking

Who is Jakob?

Jakob’s Law was coined by Jakob Nielsen, a User Advocate and principal of the Nielsen Norman Group who are world leaders in research-based user experience.


A website’s behaviour should be expected.

Consistency is one of the most powerful usability principles: when websites behave the same, users don’t have to worry about what will happen.

Instead, they know what will happen based on earlier experience.

Every time you release an apple over Sir Isaac Newton, it will drop on his head. That’s a good thing. It is expected behaviour.

If that apple did anything else, it would be unexpected behaviour. The entire laws of physics would be put into question and society will collectively experience a feeling of existential dread.

You don’t want your website’s users to have a feeling of existential dread. Do you?

Meet expectations

The more user expectations are met, the more secure the user will feel.

The user should feel complete control when using your site.

The less user expectations are met, the more insecure the user will feel.

If the user doesn’t trust your website, they won’t want to use it again.

Use familiar UX patterns

Familiarity allows focus, which means users get what they want quickly.

If your site has familiar anatomy, your users are going to focus, on your products, your services, your offerings, your content, your message; which is what you want the user to do.

That’s the main goal.

A good product should let users accomplish their intended tasks as easily and directly as possible.

Keep it simple

Try not to overload a website with overly creative and non-standard designs.

Users have to interpret differences in design. They won’t immediately know how to use the site and are going to be confused.

When people on the internet are confused, they leave.

Complexity for the sake of it is a violation of Jakob’s Law.

Remember, you are also a user

If you’re reading this article, then you’re a user of the internet. You already have a subconcious understanding of the design conventions of the internet. Focus on your current understanding to choose familiar design solutions for your users.

Repeat after me…

Follow design conventions!

Do the same as most other websites do!

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