Don’t Make Me Remember

I believe you’ve had unpleasant experiences looking for your vehicle in a huge parking lot that you’re not familiar with. How frustrating it is trying to recall where you parked. Whenever I park my car in a multi-level parking lot, I always take a few pictures with my cell phone to remind myself of the level and row where I park.

The other day, I went to the Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) airport, which is a big airport. I did the same and took a couple of pictures of where I parked. Then I walked to the nearby elevator and found a small pile of small note cards hanging on the button panel outside the elevator. Out of curiosity, I took one of them. The card showed the terminal, level, and a blank for me to write down the row letter. Then I realized it acted as a memory aid.

Parking card that shows the location of your parked vehicle

Parking card that shows the location of your parked vehicle

Imagine you park you car at the airport for a week-long business or leisure trip. When you fly back to the airport, you may not remember exactly where you’ve parked your vehicle. With a handy note card, you won’t forget. But you need to make sure you remember where you put the card. (Maybe it’s better to take a picture and store it on your mobile phone.) It seems a small thing, but it comes in handy in case you don’t remember where you parked.

In UI design, we can also help users remember information they may need later. Examples:

  • On many e-commerce shopping sites, such as  amazon, it tracks your browsing history. So if you ever want to go back to an item you have viewed, you can find it in your history. So it’s even better than shopping at a physical store because you may have trouble backtracking to the location of the item you didn’t want to buy, but now you do.
  • Travelocity, a popular travel web site, has a feature called Scratchpad, which tracks your searches. If you’re planning a trip but aren’t sure where to go, you may try numerous destinations, travel dates, travel types (air, car, cruise), etc. If you want to go back to a previous search, you can open the Scratchpad to see all your previous searches. It is quite a handy feature. Imagine how much information you need to enter or re-enter to do each search. With this feature, you don’t need to remember all the details.

Here are only a couple of examples. UI designers should use every opportunity to help users perform their tasks with ease, including reducing their cognitive load. Any design, big or small, that provides users with what they need can enhance their user experience.

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