The Flexibility Principle Applied to Forms and Menus

The working memory has limited capacity. Research shows that young adults can only hold 3-5 items in their heads at a time. And the older you are, the fewer you can hold. As such, it’s easy for users to forget how to accomplish a task they’ve done before. When this happens, it can cause them to spend a lot of time and cognitive effort to figure it out.

For this reason, it’s essential to apply the principle of flexibility to your interface design. The flexibility principle can be defined as:

Providing multiple ways to accomplish tasks that use the working memory reduces cognitive load.

It’s difficult to remember a single way to perform a task that requires working memory. When your interface offers multiple ways to accomplish the task, users can choose their most preferred way. A flexible interface reduces cognitive load, so users don’t have to rely on memory to recall information.

Data Input Flexibility

Flexibility is often necessary with data inputs. When users need to input data in unit measurements, you should allow users to choose the metric system they prefer. The user may not know how to calculate their data with the metric system or imperial units. Giving them the option to toggle between the two makes it easy for them to input their data.

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