Chroma Experience

Spatial memory

Spatial memory allows us to recall the relationship of objects to each other by repeatedly interacting with them. This is how we find objects in our homes or navigate our way through a familiar city. On the one hand, spatial memory is important for our daily tasks, and on the other hand, it is also an important factor for a good user experience.

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For users to develop spatial memory in user interfaces, two things are necessary:
Repeated practice accessing objects and an interface where elements don't move too much with each update:

How can you harness the power of spatial memory in your designs?

1. Create visual boundaries

They are key for users to develop spatial memory. When the visual size changes, the objects should remain stable relative to the outer edges:

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2. use the so-called "landmarks".

Landmarks are another important tool for supporting spatial memory. Landmarks are distinctive objects that stand out and are easy to find. A landmark in Berlin, for example, would be the TV tower. We use them to orient ourselves with their help. In user interfaces, it can also be a function key or an illustration. Since this tool is largely out of the designer's control, it's important to understand how users can use the interface to navigate through the product.

3. Optimize response times

It has been shown that a slower user experience leads to poor memory performance. As user interfaces evolved and performance speeds increased, William Doherty noticed an improved experience. He put this theory to the test in a 1979 study in which he found that the slower the computer responded, the longer it took the user to think about the next step. Even milliseconds made a significant difference.

4. Define patterns

It is important to consider that users feel familiar with consistent design patterns, both in a particular product and in all other products. Therefore, many position elements such as dialog boxes in predictable locations, which affects our spatial memory:

5. consider emotions

Human emotions can affect our spatial memory both positively and negatively. A positive emotional experience is likely to favor sustained storage in memory and is easily processed in working memory, while a negative experience has a poorer memory retention probability, stresses our working memory, and naturally produces a memory we would rather forget.

Spatial memory is imprecise.

Apart from the objects that are most frequently accessed, spatial memory tends to be fuzzy: Users don't remember the exact location of an item, but rather an approximation. User interfaces should always be designed so that the use of spatial memory allows them to interact fluidly:

The use of spatial memory in UX design simply serves to increase efficiency on the user's side and make him feel familiar with the application. This also reduces the effort of designers by giving them some rough guidelines within which they can experiment. The talent of a UX designer in this scenario defines how well the end user's need is balanced between "comfort of familiarity" and the need to try something "fresh and new."

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