Using Jakob’s law for better web design


Building beautiful, intuitive websites needn’t be so complicated. At least, that’s what Jakob’s law would have you believe. 

Jakob’s law is named after Jakob Nielsan, a principle of the the Nelson Nielsan Group.

This simple UX principle states that as people become accustomed to viewing websites, they have developed an innate understanding of what each category of website should look like. In other words almost all eCommerce stores look similar to each other, home delivery and takeaway websites look similar to each other, and consultant websites all look similar. 

Why is this? The answer is Jakob’s law. In this insights article, we’ll be exploring what Jakob’s law is, and why it’s so important for building intuitive websites. 

What is Jakob's law?

In short, Jakob’s law states that we expect websites to look similar to other websites we have viewed in the past. In other words, the more websites we view, the more accustomed we become to how certain categories of websites should be structured. 

Web users refer to a schema, or a reference model, every time they view a website. By leveraging our visitors’ existing mental models, we can reduce the amount of thinking they need to do when visiting a website. 

So to create better browsing experiences, it’s best practice to look at existing websites within your competitive landscape and model the design based on them.

An example of Jakob's law in practice.

We recently developed this website for The Commercial Printing Company in Glasgow. In doing so, we employed Jakob’s law.

We started by auditing the existing competitive landscape and identifying websites that had a slick, intuitive user experience. We then opted to follow a similar structure, yet with an original design. The resulting website adopts the industry’s best practices whilst creating a unique personality that makes the website ‘stick’ in the minds of our visitors. 


In this insights article, we’ve explored what Jakob’s law is, and how it can be used to create more intuitive user experiences for our visitors. In summary, Jakob’s law states that people become accustomed to how certain categories of websites should look, and we should leverage their existing mental models to reduce the amount of thinking each visitor has to undertake. 

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