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6. Hick Hyman's Law

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Hick’s Law


Hick's Law (for William Edmund Hick) or the Hick–Hyman Law (for Ray Hyman), predicts the time it takes to make a decision in selecting among possible choices. The Hick-Hyman Law measures cognitive information capacity. Given n equally probable choices, the average reaction time T required to choose among them is approximately.


   T = b.log2(n+1)


The reaction time curve is logarithmic because for quick search we divide choices into categories, skipping half of choices at each step instead of considering each choice one-by-one. To find a given  command in a randomly ordered menu, scanning each command  is essential, requiring linear time, so Hick's law does not apply here. But if list is ordered  we can search and select by subdividing strategy that works in logarithmic time.


Hick's Law is applicable to menu design. It helps in designing menu hierarchy and depth. When we have too many choices (long hierarchy as shown in the screenshot below) we need to cognitively categorize items to reduce the time taken to select an item at any stage. The logarithmic function of Hick’s Law decides the depth of hierarchy of the menu tree.


Application of Hick’s Law :


Figure 1. below shows an  example  of a bad  web-page design which  ignores  Hick’s Law. The web-page has too many choices and  scrollbars without proper  blocking of  contents  due  to  which  user’s reaction time is extremely compromised.

                                                           Figure 1


Figure 2. below shows Google website as an example of a good web-page design. It presents few and clearly distinguished choices that obeys the Hick’s Law. Layout is simple, color choices and graphics are limited  thereby reducing  the reaction  time  to  a large  extent.



                                              Figure 2



Useful tips based on Hicks Law for web-page design


1.     Distinguish links using colors.

2.     Use consistent and familiar layouts to reduce the reaction time.

3.   Use techniques (viz. lines, colors) to distinguish related blocks of information(that helps in selecting  alternatives quickly) to reduce overall  reaction time.


     Example  of  such  webpage  is  shown  below ...




 To proceed  further  click on the OBJECTIVE tab on the top or to exit this experiment  click on HOME  on the top.


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