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14 Principles of Learnability

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Learnability is the ease and speed with which people learn to use a product, service, machine, information source or environment. Where it was once common for user interfaces to require training to use, modern learnability techniques often allow users to quickly become proficient with a little trial and error. The following are common design principles that are used to improve learnability.

Design to the Edges

Designing things for the maximum number of people as opposed to the average person. This is done because an average person doesn't really exist. Design to the edges is the practice of avoiding assumptions about people to make things as broadly usable as possible.

Principle of Least Astonishment

Controls that function as people expect and environments that immediately intuitive.

Repetition & Rhythm

Repeating elements of a design in a rhythmic pattern that gives things structure.

Information Scent

Provide visual cues, structure and textual information that helps people to smell information.


Avoid being too dynamic such that things are frequently changing for reasons that aren't obvious to users.

Fit for Purpose

Designs that are well suited to their purpose. Avoid cluttered features that add little value.

Stay Out of the Way

Avoid rules, steps, procedures and interruptions that force users to jump through hoops. Allow people to do things their own way.


Make actions reversible so that people can learn by trial and error.

Least Effort

Work hard to make user interfaces simple. For example, don't ask users technical questions when an assumption will do. Allow advanced users to configure and override things if they want.

Graceful Errors

Designs that continue to work when errors occur. For example, software that automatically restarts services that crash without bothering the user about it.

Flat Structures

Give things structure but not too much. Avoid burying things under more than 2 or 3 levels.

Provide Context

Explain to the user exactly where they are and what is going on. For example, an ecommerce site that explains a page is for reviewing shipping information and that the customer's credit card won't be charged when they submit the page.

Provide Feedback

Explain what is expected at a particular moment. If the user is expected to wait for the system to complete a request, give visual cues and information that makes this obvious.


Things that are fun to use and intriguing to explore are easy to learn. For example, gamification techniques may improve learnability.
Overview: Learnability
The ease and speed with which people learn to use a product, service, machine, information source or environment.
Related Concepts


This is the complete list of articles we have written about usability.
Calm Technology
Context Of Use
Color Theory
Customer Experience
Context Awareness
Design Principles
Fit For Purpose
Human Factors
Information Scent
Design To The Edges
Input Is Error
Latent Error
Human Scale
Modeless Design
Information Density
User Analysis
User Intent
Negative Space
Least Effort
Sensory Design
Universal Design
Universal Usability
Usability Requirements
More ...
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