Tag Archives: Design

Performance load, chunking and usability in design.

Performance load refers to psychological cognitive and physical demand or load. It defines two areas cognitive and kinematic load. Cognitive is the mental processes of perception, memory judgement and reasoning.  Kinematic refers to the physical, for example the amount of physical effort in the process required. Load is referring to the weight that this process makes upon each individual.

I’m writing this blog for a university report and found the in class examples used unhelpful. Here’s some more dynamic examples of cognitive and kinematic load situations.

For cognitive load, consider a pilot and co-pilot who are flying a plane. Normally the cognitive load for these two people would be low, however consider the times where pilots cognitive load increases when operating under stress. A low cognitive load maybe something like running through a preflight task list, checking and communicating the procedure between pilot and co-pilot.

A higher level of load maybe approaching a landing in rain, with limited visibility,  being  thrown around by turbulance,  reliant only on cockpit instrumentation, and then a malfunction occurs, all whilst trying to communicate procedures.  A good indication of levels of stress is the ability of the crew to communicate to each other.

“For example, a pilots’s erroneous anticipation of a takeoff clearance resultedin the 1977 runway collision at Tenerife, Spain, which remains humanity’s worst aircraft accident”. (Bragg, 2006)
The human brain is much like a computer and “Following the analogy of cache memory in a computer, comprehension in human readers proceeds rapidly and efficiently if all of the elements involved in encoding, storage and immediate memory access operate effectively in phase”.(O’Rielly 1992) This creates a chunk of memory in an overall larger map of memory.
Chunking of information is something we aren’t really very good at but increase our stress levels and we do very badly at the encoding part. We can at times only process a finite number of different things at a time.  This number is believed to be about seven give plus or minus 2 depending on the individual. With inflight information, keeping track of the amount of information on hand is quite a task, but the worse conditions become the higher the performace load becomes. The way airlines have dealt with this is by chunking information into checklists, so that nothing get’s missed in the process, and it simply becomes a checking situation between pilot and co-pilot.
If we  were not aware of performance load and it’s effects, things like this can occur. Consider this recent case where a bus driver was found to have texted 11 times before having a crash. ”The driver sent six texts and received five texts, with the last text just before his pickup crashed into the back of a tractor truck, beginning a chain collision. The pickup was rear-ended by a school bus, which in turn was rammed by a second school bus” (CBS news 2011)

Unfortunately the driver in this case, increased his cognitive load, diverting his attention from the task at hand with tragic consequences.

An example for Kinematic load, I like to think of is the difference between manual and automatic cars.

What I am saying here is that reducing the physical steps increases the simplicity and load experienced.

For example normally driving there maybe little if any percieved difference between driving a manual or automatic vehicle, however add in a few stress factors like bad weather, slippery roads, a child screaming and what cognitive load we aren’t using by coordinating the shifting and selecting of gears may be better used focusing on where and what the car is about to hit.

How does all this apply to design? Well simply the easier you can make obtaining your information, in a well presented, logical, simple, way the easier the system is to use.

In websites usability is vitally important  “Usability primarily involves the interface—what elements appear onscreen and how efficient, intelligible, and intuitive they are…Research on the way people interact with computers has provided insight into how to define, develop, and enhance usability, which is significantly associated with five basic design elements: navigation, response time, content, interactivity, and responsiveness.” (Palmer 2002)

If information is presented efficiently it can be targeted towards our behaviours.  “Most owners of websites have them for a reason. There are target behaviours that they want us to engage in – quite often, even several target behaviours. An e-commerce site wants us to choose products and buy them. A non profit site wants us to loan money to help small business owners in different parts of the world…..Most behaviour isn’t conscious.”(Weinschenk 2009)

People don’t read, they scan! “One of the very few well documented facts about web usage is that people tend to spend very little time reading most webpages. Instead we scan (or skim) them looking for words or phrases that catch our eye.” (Krugg 2000) pg 22

In summary less is definately more, so make your design logical, simple and easy to follow. Don’t make people overthink or they won’t get the information when they need it.



Krugg, S.(2000). Don’t make me think too much. Indianapolis, Indiana, USA: New Riders Publishing.

Weinschenk, S.(2009). Neuro Web Design what makes them click?. Berkley, CA: New Riders Publishing


O’rielly, R. (1992). Chunking capacity in good and poor readers. Texas womens University, 0227089

Palmer, J. (2002). Designing for Web usability. Computer, Volume 35, Issue 7 ,p102-103, (2002). ISSN 0018-9162

Cortes, A. (2011).  A Theory of False Cognitive Expectancies in Airline Pilots.  Northcentral University,  349 2476

Bragg, R. (2006).  Runway Incursions. Bombardier Safety Standdown on Business Aviation Accident Prevention,Wichita, KS.


Bus crash information. (2012). Retreived May 10th, 2012, from http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-201_162-57342254/ntsb-driver-texted-11-times-before-deadly-crash/

Chunking information. (2012). Retreived May 10th, 2012, from http://www.reference.com/browse/Chunking_%28psychology%29


Cockpit view. (2012). Retreived May 10th, 2012, from http://www.flightglobal.com/airspace/media/galleries/images/92507/500×400/transavia-b737-view-from-cockpit-on-final-for.jpg

Pilot picture. (2012). Retreived May 10th, 2012, from http://media.salon.com/2011/06/ask_the_pilot-460×307.jpg

VW gearbox. (2012). Retreived May 10th, 2012, from http://www.arabamoto.com/var/albums/VOLKSWAGEN/vw-gti/2010_Volkswagen_GTI_manual_transmission_picture_wallpaperscar.jpg

How to remain credible in an incredible web world

Aristotle once defined ethos as the credibility or good character of the speaker.

Web credibility is the good charecter we seek to achieve and the web is the speaker we use.  I believe Aristotles three artistic proofs of Ethos(credibility), Pathos(emotional) and Logos (logical) are as practical today as when he said this in 384 BC.

In the book “Writing Arguments” by John Ramage outlines Aristotles 3 artistic proofs. I have taken this and applied it to the Web.

Following this methodology we must present our information as an author who is respectable, formulate argument which is appealing to the emotions of the reader and by also by using logical reasoning to re-inforce your stance.(Ramage, 1998)

The internet is for the most part an unregulated place where people give their opinions freely, this is a dangerous place for a student to conduct research as generally it is without thought of any of these proofs.

Opinions, outlook, and information is presented which may be un-researched, unqualified, biased, or completely wrong. People also like to make money from the internet by selling or pushing products and advertising on their websites making them overtly biased. This week’s reading gave me insight into what contributes to website credibility and broke down some of the identifiable factors into things like design, content and reputation.

In the book “Shaping Web Usability” Badre says ” If quality is a design goal, the subjective perceptions of users will be one of quality.” (Badre, 2000).

As a student I would never quote or produce poor information which I understand is not of a high quality, or have to the best of my ability attempted to confirm is written by someone who is credible, unbiased and reputable. I wouldn’t do this as it affects my credibility as a student. It would also limit my knowledge and understanding of the subject and give me a non-credible base of knowledge to rely upon. Learning is a life-long journey and I would like to be an authoritative non biased, knowledgeable person on  my subject.

In presentation of this information, I’d try to at least have a read through a few books, journals and then maybe a few websites as generally my opinion of websites is not as good as printed, peer assessed information like books and journals. I will never use wikipedia, it’s not credible, it’s kind of a joke that anyone at any time can change the definition of anything.  Wiki means fast in Hawaiian and like most things which are fast in delivery they lack certain important qualities,  Wikipedia lacks Credibility.

Please feel free to explore Wikipedia’s current definition of Credibility.

“People tend to have different trust criteria in different spheres of their credibility judgment. Criteria used for assessing the credibility of an advertisement may not be the same as criteria used for evaluating other types of documents…When a user begins to judge the believability of a document, he/she is likely to make a decision based on certain indirect features (such as the reputation of the author and the author’s affiliation) as well as based on the document content. People tend to give greater credibility to a document that is written by a well-known author, or by an author affiliated with a prestigious institution.”(Liu, 2004)

As a student credibility of information should add academic weighting. If we are credible those who we engage can eventually see our works as  legitimate, researched, factual and may consider what we write to be of interest and maybe one day use-able.

Online newspapers are forever in a struggle with  getting the message out there quickly, with limited time for research and often being published online simultaneously.  It’s a struggle to get the news our whilst ensuring the information they are putting out is credible. It seems to me like a real challenge and I  believe the only way they must manage to achieve this on a daily basis is through several levels of editorial quality control.

The Web however has no editor. We saw in the readings that there are a few badges in recogintion of credibility which I think is a great idea. There isn’t many people dedicated to the task of internet credibility, however the stanford web credibility project are just such people.

The standford web credibility project is a team of people who are interested in the web and credibility. They are currently:

  • Performing quantitative research on Web credibility.
  • Collecting all public information on Web credibility.
  • Acting as a clearinghouse for this information.
  • Facilitating research and discussion about Web credibility.
  • Collaborating with academic and industry research groups.

The top 10 factors to a credible website are:

  • Make it easy to verify the accuracy of the information on your site.
  • Show that there’s a real organization behind your site.
  • Highlight the expertise in your organization and in the content and services you provide.
  • Show that honest and trustworthy people stand behind your site.
  • Make it easy to contact you.
  • Design your site so it looks professional (or is appropriate for your purpose).
  • Make your site easy to use — and useful.
  • Update your site’s content often (at least show it’s been reviewed recently).
  • Use restraint with any promotional content (e.g., ads, offers).
  • Avoid errors of all types, no matter how small they seem.

Fogg, B.J. (May 2002).

In summary credibility and aesthetics seem to go hand in hand, too much spurious information has a degrading effect, just as too much content in design makes the useability of the design degrade. Again I am finishing my blog saying less is more however it’s not as simple as that.  I am saying in this case ensure your information is credible and that it appeals emotionally to your reader, is logical in design and they way you deliver it. Plan for quality.



Badre, A. (2002). Shaping Web Usability interaction design in context. Boston, MA: Addison-Wesley.

Ramage, J. & Bean,J. & Johnson, J. (1998). Writing arguments: a rhetoric with readings. 3rd Edition. P81-82 .ISBN 0321163389


Fogg, B.J. (2002). Stanford guidelines for web credibility. A research summary from the Stanford persausive technology lab. Stanford University.
Ziming, L. (2004). Perceptions of credibility of scholarly information on the web. Information processing & management Volume 40 issue 6, Pages 1027

Wikipedia. (2012). Retreived May 20th, 2012, from   http://wikipedia.com

Standford Credibility project. (2007) Retreived May 20th, 2012, from http://credibility.stanford.edu/


Wikipedia image. (2012). Retreived May 18th, 2012, from http://wikipedia.com/credibility

Aristotle image. (2012). Retreived May 20th, 2012, from http://vccslitonline.cc.va.us/tragedy/images/Aristotl.jpg

Hulk image. (2012). Retreived May 15th, 2012, from http://chzmemebase.files.wordpress.com/2012/04/superheroes-batman-superman-superheroes-hes-in-credible.jpg

Newspaper image. (2012). Retreived May 18th, 2012 from http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2012/01/31/article-0-11644114000005DC-817_468x286.jpg

What is aesthetics? and why is it important in design?

A textbook I have on design “Exploring the elements of design” simply doesn’t have an explanation for what the word aesthetic means, which I found really weird? So here’s my best hypothesis.

I believe aesthetics refers to the beauty of visual, pleasing, simplicity, in design or artwork.

In the book “The nature and aesthetics of design” Pye says “There are two questions that concern every designer. First: if some things are of ‘good’ appearance while others are not, why are ‘good’ ones good and the ‘bad’ ones bad? What causes the difference?

Second supposing they are good, who is the better for it? Does it really matter? If so why? These are questions of aesthetics.” Pye (1982).

Yes it seems that aesthetics really do matter, and that if you do have the right aesthetics, it can help in ways you probably hadn’t considered.

when we feel good, we overlook design faults. Use a pleasing design, one

that looks good and feels — well — sexy, and the behavior seems to go along

more  smoothly, more easily and better. Attractive things work better.”

(Norman, 2002, p. 41).

In the book “Design basics” it describes aesthetics with a little more difficulty. It says that aesthetics doesn’t contribute to the content, form or function. The next comment is describing an American bank-note with artwork and large white space. “Take, for example adornment subject matter can be absent and the only, ”problem” is one of creating visual pleasure.  Lauer & Pentak (2012).

So less is more and simplicity is important.
 In the book “Contemporary Advertising” they say “Any elements which can be eliminated without damaging the overall effect should be cut. Too many type styles; type that is too small; too many reverses, illustrations, or boxed items; and unnecessary copy make for an overly complex layout and an ad that is hard to read.” Arens, Schafer & Weigold (2012).

This weeks reading discusses the idea that aesthetically pleasing designs are believed to be simpler and easier to use despite the fact that this may not be true.

This premise of “pleasing designs” relates to human attractiveness and that’s why first impressions count. Your appearance forms the basis of the way people form their attitudes, perceive you and how you may be treated.

Lucky I am always immaculately presented!

In the journal “Good looking people are not what we think” it explains, You maybe treated this way as studies have been conducted which made “trait attributions to attractive and unattractive students from photographs. Socially desirable characteristics were more often ascribed to attractive students than to unattractive students, implying a “beautiful-is-good” halo effect of attractiveness. The existence of this stereotype equating beauty with personal worth suggests that physically attractive people may develop desirable qualities in response to others’ expectations.” Dion, Berscheid, & Walster (1972).


So positively pleasing aesthetic designs are believed to create positive attitudes and minimize perceptions of problems.  Great aesthetics can create feelings like affection, loyalty, and patience.

In the journal article “Judging books by their covers” Kwan claims that “Conversely, there is also ample evidence that individuals who do not conform to conventional beauty ideals experience stigma, negative treatment, and discrimination. not shave their legs and underarms are deemed unattractive as well as less intelligent, happy, and sociable than women who do remove body hair”. Kwan, S., & Trautner, M. N. (2011).

I believe there is much to take from this week’s reading.

If your plan is to produce content that involves any level of design.

  1. Take the time to consider what your first impression is.
  2. Keep it simple. It may be more likely to be used if it is or give the impression that it is easier.
  3. Respect the design principles and create aesthetically pleasing beautiful work.
  4. Hope to produce something which creates affection, loyalty and patience by its beauty, simplicity and ease of use. 



Evans, P., & Thomas, M. (2008). Exploring the elements of design (2nd ed.). Cincinnati: Thomson Delmar Learning.

Pye, D. (2000). The nature & aesthetics of design. Chelsea, MI, USA: Cambium Press.

Lauer, D. A. (2008). Design basics. Boston MA Thompson Wadsworth.

Arens, W., Weigold, M., & Arens, C. (2012). Contemporary advertising (11 ed.): McGraw Hill.


Kwan, S., & Tratner, M. N. (2012). Teaching about physical attractiveness biases. Teaching Sociology, 39. doi: 10.1177/0092055X10390655

Fiengold, A. (1992). Good-looking people are not what we think. Psychological Bulletin, 111(2), 304-341. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.111.2.304

Norman,D. (2002). Emotion & Design: Attractive things work better. Interactions, 9(4), 36-42.


Allergan picture. (2012). Retreived May 10th, 2012, from http://www.allergan.com.au/281.mtid

Beautiful spa picture. . (2012). Retreived May 10th, 2012, from http://www.vanityfair.com/online/beauty/spas

Mirror picture. (2012). Retreived May 10th, 2012, from http://www.decofeelings.com/pacha-design/