The answer is not binary, the options are not only to have high or low performance load. Could have been nice to be that simple.

I prefer to think of it as thermostat that should be tuned according to the context and the intended user, so your product can provide the right “temperature” for the user to feel comfortable.

Often, during the user journey the performance load needs to change from low to high.

Let’s take again a fitness machine as a metaphor for designing a user journey. The machine needs to be easy to understand from the first sight. It needs to direct the user how it should be operated and how to increase the weights. Once the user feels safe and knows the basics, the machine would provide a way to increase the performance load to a challenging level based on how advanced the user it. Of course, this example is a bit oversimplified compare to some digital products or more complex physical products.

However, the principle of transitioning the performance load from low to high can be used in many contexts from Gaming industry to Enterprise products, where different users have different level of proficiency.

Good design needs to account for these needs and be capable of providing the needed performance load at the right time.

Things to consider when designing for performance load

Context

Understand the context, in which the product will live and how your users will be using it.

Is it environment that ads to the cognitive load? How much performance load is there before you even introduce your product/design to that context?

Sometimes the environment where the user will be using the product is overwhelming with cognitive or physical stimulus. In that case, it could be better to reduce the performance load when designing the product.

Your product will be rarely used in isolation from the rest of the environment, so always keep the context in mind.

Time

Time is the most important resource each of us has and we as designers need to keep this in mind constantly. Strive to optimize the design and the performance load to take up the right amount of time from the user.

Is the task time sensitive? How sensitive? 
Is it about preventing an airstrike, turning off the stove or about responding to a personal message?

Usually, the more time sensitive is the task the more we need to reduce the performance load when designing.

User proficiency

Go and talk to different users. Get the feeling what is their proficiency level. Are they spending 8h a day in the context you’re designing for or they spend 15min a week? How much complexity can they handle?

The higher the proficiency is the more likely is that the user can take on higher performance load.

Feedback

Feedback is essential for any human being that lives. It is the base of how we operate and navigate the world including any given design.

Make sure your design includes ways to provide the proper amount of feedback to the user. From simple message that the file has been uploaded to complex report of what has happened in the past week. It all matters more than we usually think when designing.

The lack of proper feedback is frequently a pain point in any user journey.

User tests your products to figure out the right amount of feedback that the user needs. How much information should you serve back in any given touch point? Should you provide both physical and mental feedback?

Simple tactile feedback can take the user experience to a whole another level. Similar to how game console controllers are adding to the experience with vibration in the right moments.

The trick is to provide the right amount of feedback. It is easy to increase the performance load a lot if for example the tactile feedback is not used sparingly. Imagine, a console controller that does not stop buzzing all the time.

Communication and language

Often forgotten point by many designers. Communicating and using the user’s language to manage the performance load can be one of the cheapest and most efficient ways to improve the UX of the product.

A single unknown word in the interface. A warning message that can’t be seen due to non-compliance with accessibility guidelines. These can skyrocket the performance load.

Even when the design was made with the best of intentions to provide the best feedback and the right amount of cognitive load.

Think of what is the language your users are using. Use copywriters who can significantly help polish the copy of the product. Make sure to follow the official accessibility guidelines so the users can see, hear and interact as intended with the design.

Final thoughts

Consider the performance load aspect of your design as a dance that the user will perform with the product. Sometimes the need will be for a slow and calm dance that relaxes the user and provides satisfaction. Other times, it will need to be more energetic with higher intensity so the user can feel alive. These dances could happen on the same stage at different hours of the evening.

It is not a question of having performance load or not. It is about how much is needed in the different touch points of the user journey.

Thanks for being here and reading my thoughts!

Feel free to follow me and connect with me. 🙂

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