Learning Portfolio 3/4 Week 11 Item 1 Critical Reading and Writing Q1)

The greater the effort to accomplish a task the less likely the task will be accomplished successfully

Performance load previously and interchangeably known as workload, (Oviatt,2006) is made up of cognitive (mental) and kinematic (physical) action and is the degree of energy required to complete an activity or achieve a goal. (Lidwell, Holden, & Butler, 2003) High performance load should be avoided if practicable as the probability of achieving the goal is decreased due to an increase in time and errors. The opposite is true for when performance load is low. (Lidwell, et al. 2003)

Assembling boxed product shelves from Ikea involves both cognitive and kinetic performance.  One must figure out the instructions before physically putting the shelves together.  I feel that Ikea has taken steps to reduce the cognitive load by a series of often pictorial universal instructions aimed at benefiting as many people as possible and reducing the cognitive aspect of the total performance load to increase the chances of successful product assembly.  I was pleased to find that my view was supported by Professor Sweller in a video presentation I found on extraneous cognitive load which can be watched on my Vodpod account.

Lidwell et all, use the example of keyless entry as a reduction of kinematic load. (Lidwell, Holden, & Butler, 2003) Reducing performance load is in line with Normans of User centred design and an attribute of what he terms to be “good design”. (Norman 1990)

Remembering things adds to the cognitive performance load as does other mental processes like problem solving and perception. (Lidwell, Holden, & Butler, 2003) Therefore strategies to reduce cognitive load like chunking information to aid memory and problem solving, minimising visual noise and automated computation have made computers easier to use and suitable for the mass market.  (Lidwell, et al. 2003)

I have naturally adopted various technologies of the past decades and wouldn’t be without them and although in general modern design has worked to improve the performance load, I can hardly imagine operating a telegraph machine, todays’ collective performance load is astonishingly high compared to when I was in highschool in the the late 1980’s.  In a 2006 study on human centred design, Sharon Oviatt (2006)cites an article by Tom Freidman from the New York Times who after spending time in Peru ponder alarmingly, who can think or innovate under such laborious conditions and whether what he calls our modern multitasking culture will lead to a decline in civilization? (Oviatt,2006) Oviatt necessitates that a reduction of performance load is timely and remarks

“Humancentered design advocates that a more promising and enduring approach is to model users’ natural behavior (sic) to begin with, including any constraints on their ability to attend, learn, and perform, so that interfaces can be designed that are more intuitive, easier to learn, and freer of performance errors” (Oviatt,2006, p861).

It could be argued with the increase of technology it is now more important than ever to ensure that any product design is tested or tweaked to achieve the lowest performance load before marketed.


Lidwell, W., Holden, K., & Butler, J. (2003). Perfomance Load. In Universal principles of design. Massachusetts: Rockport.

Norman, D. A. (1990). The design of everyday things. New York: John Wiley & Sons.

Oviatt, S. (2006). Human-centered design meets cognitive load theory: designing interfaces that help people think. Paper presented at the Proceedings of the 14th annual ACM international conference on Multimedia, Santa Barbara, CA, USA.

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