Embracing Jakob’s Law in Interface Design: A Comprehensive Guide

Sachin Tharaka
3 min readMay 11, 2024


Jakob’s Law, also known as Jakob Nielsen’s Law of Internet User Experience, is a pivotal principle in user interface (UI) design that emphasizes the importance of familiarity. According to Jakob Nielsen, users spend most of their time on other websites, which means they prefer your site to operate similarly to what they are already accustomed to. This preference for familiarity can significantly influence the effectiveness of interface design. This article delves into the applications of Jakob’s Law, providing detailed examples across various platforms to illustrate its practical importance.

Key Tenets of Jakob’s Law

Jakob’s Law primarily focuses on the user’s expectation for consistency and familiarity in new interfaces. When websites or applications adhere to common design conventions, users can navigate them more intuitively, leading to a better user experience. Here are some practical applications and examples:

1. Web Design Consistency

Logo Placement: Users expect the logo to be in the top left corner of a website, which typically links back to the homepage. For example, Amazon and eBay both use this layout, reinforcing user familiarity and ease of navigation.

Navigation Menus: Commonly, navigation menus are placed at the top of the page or as a vertical column on the left side. Facebook and LinkedIn use top horizontal menus to categorize different areas of their websites, such as Home, My Network, and Jobs.

2. E-commerce Best Practices

Shopping Cart: Placement of the shopping cart icon is usually at the top right corner of the page, a standard set by platforms like eBay and Amazon. This convention helps users easily locate and access their cart no matter what page they are on.

Checkout Process: Streamlined checkout processes are expected to follow a familiar sequence — cart review, shipping information, payment method, and confirmation. Shopify provides customizable templates that adhere to these expected patterns, minimizing user confusion.

3. Mobile App Interface

Hamburger Menu: Often used in mobile sites and apps for compact navigation options, the hamburger menu (three horizontal lines) is usually found in the top left or right corners. Apps like Spotify and Google Maps use this to manage user navigation without cluttering the interface.

Swipe Gestures: Tinder popularized the swipe right for like and swipe left for dislike gestures. These intuitive controls are now common in dating apps, demonstrating how adopting familiar gestures can enhance user engagement and ease of use.

Challenges of Applying Jakob’s Law

While Jakob’s Law promotes familiarity, it presents challenges, especially when balancing innovation with convention. Here are a few challenges and considerations:

Innovation vs. Familiarity: Designers must decide when to innovate and when to stick with standard practices. For instance, while most text editors use a floppy disk icon for the save function, newer apps like Google Docs have shifted to automatic saving with less emphasis on manual save icons, pushing the boundaries of traditional user expectations.

Cultural Variations: What is familiar to users in one region may be unfamiliar in another. Designers creating global applications must consider these differences. For instance, red signifies danger or stop in many Western cultures, but it represents prosperity and good fortune in China.

Future Directions Influenced by Jakob’s Law

As technology evolves, the interpretation of Jakob’s Law will also adapt. With the rise of AI and voice interfaces, the principle of familiarity will extend to how users interact with these new technologies. For example:

Voice Interfaces: As smart speakers like Amazon Alexa and Google Home become more common, designing voice commands that are intuitive and easy to remember will be crucial.

Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR): As AR and VR technologies become more mainstream, designers will need to create interaction models that align with user expectations derived from real-world experiences.


Jakob’s Law is a cornerstone of user interface design that emphasizes the importance of familiarity in creating effective, user-friendly interfaces. By understanding and applying this principle, designers can enhance user experience, making digital environments more intuitive and accessible. As we look to the future, the challenge will be to maintain this familiarity while embracing the innovations that new technologies bring.



Sachin Tharaka

Software Engineering, University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka