Human-centered design meets cognitive load theory: designing interfaces that help people think

Sharon Oviatt

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference PaperResearchpeer-review

192 Citations (Scopus)


Historically, the development of computer systems has been primarily a technology-driven phenomenon, with technologists believing that "users can adapt" to whatever they build. Human-centered design advocates that a more promising and enduring approach is to model users' natural behavior to begin with so that interfaces can be designed that are more intuitive, easier to learn, and freer of performance errors. In this paper, we illustrate different user-centered design principles and specific strategies, as well as their advantages and the manner in which they enhance users' performance. We also summarize recent research findings from our lab comparing the performance characteristics of different educational interfaces that were based on user-centered design principles. One theme throughout our discussion is human-centered design that minimizes users' cognitive load, which effectively frees up mental resources for performing better while also remaining more attuned to the world around them.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMM '06 - Proceedings of the 14th ACM international conference on Multimedia
Place of PublicationNew York NY USA
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery (ACM)
Number of pages10
ISBN (Print)1595934472, 9781595934475
Publication statusPublished - 2006
Externally publishedYes
EventACM International Conference on Multimedia 2006 - Santa Barbara, United States of America
Duration: 23 Oct 200627 Oct 2006
Conference number: 14th


ConferenceACM International Conference on Multimedia 2006
Abbreviated titleMM 2006
Country/TerritoryUnited States of America
CitySanta Barbara
Internet address


  • Cognitive load
  • Educational interfaces
  • Human-centered design
  • Mobile interfaces
  • Multimodal interfaces
  • Pen-based interfaces
  • Performance metrics
  • Robustness
  • Spoken language interfaces
  • Tangible interfaces
  • Usability

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