Performance Load (learning portfolio 3)

What is Performance Load?
The amount of effort, both physical and mental, used to complete a task is determined by the performance load (Lidwell, 2003). Lidwell and Holden, authors of Universal Principles of Design, explain that performance load is made up of two factors: cognitive load and kinematic load (Lidwell, 2003).

Cognitive load refers to the amount of mental effort needed to reach a goal or complete a task. According to the cognitive load theory, learning is compromised when the cognitive (or mental) load is far too high, therefore by reducing the amount of information portrayed and amount of memory needed the cognitive load becomes more bearable and learning will be enhanced (Plass, 2010).

Kinematic load defines how much physical effort is needed to reach a goal or complete a task. By reducing the amount of kinematic load there is the task at hand will become easier to achieve (Lidwell, 2003).

Once the cognitive and kinematic loads have been minimised as much as possible the performance load will become much more bearable therefore making the task far easier to complete (Lidwell, 2003).

What is ‘Chunking’?
Chunking is described as one of the aspects that can be reduced to improve something’s cognitive load. Chunking is achieved when large amounts of information are compiled together thus making it easier for people to remember what they have read/looked at etc. Miller explains that people are very ignorant when they are exposed to a large variety of information at once, whereas when chunking is applied to compile the information into categories people tend to be far more observant (Miller, 1955).

The reasoning behind chunking is that the human brain only has a certain capacity in terms of working memory, which is where information is manipulated and stored (Malamed). Advance organizers are brief chunks and can be either expository or comparative (Lidwell, 2003).  These brief chunks of information help reduce cognitive load by containing only information that the working memory can withhold whilst summarizing the area of information that is yet to come.

Expository advance organisers come into effect when people have no prior knowledge and must be exposed to new information, whereas comparative advance organisers are best suited for people who do have prior knowledge as they compare the new product/item etc. with previously learned information (Lidwell, 2003).

Ultimately chunking is used to collaborate information into similar categories and to also summarize information. Chunking helps to reduce the cognitive work load by allowing people to remember what they are reading or looking at more easily due to the fact that people are quite ignorant when being exposed to too much information, or information that is very poorly organised or explained (Miller, 1955).  Over all chunking increases comprehensibility, as less time is needed to memorise information, therefore satisfying users.

Is Psychology Necessary in Design?
Visual design is a method of portraying information to an audience; in order for information to be effectively received there must be some sort of understanding behind how to portray information properly. Due to this I do believe that an understanding of psychology, whether only brief or not, to be beneficial when dealing with design techniques. It is not uncommon for design processes to be improved by using psychology. As stated by Benson “The fields of human factors, human–computer interaction, and environmental psychology, of course, have long brought design and psychology together (Benson, 2006).” This statement shows that in order to completely understand how people comprehend information effective one must do some research into the psychological side of design – understanding how people interact with texts, computers and other man-made things will ultimately help in the design process.

Three Examples:
1) Online Banking
 (CommBank, 2012)
Internet banking sites reduce kinematic work load significantly when someone is in possession of a computer, smart phone, iPad or other device with a working internet connection. The kinematic work load is decreased as travelling to a bank, waiting in cues if there are any and then travelling back home is unnecessary. This also reduces the cognitive load as the only mental activity required is remembering the website name and your username and password – no more remembering how to get to the nearest bank branch. Internet banking also decreases cognitive load as the stresses of trying to get to a bank during their opening hours is eliminated – online banking is an option 24/7, 365 days of the year unless there is site maintenance occurring. Despite the fact that some transactions may take longer to go through due to the weekend, public holidays and so forth (which still occurs when visiting a branch), everything can be done at the click of a button from the comfort of being at home. Online banking sites also allows you to set up automated payments at your required intervals so that you don’t forget and also obviously allow you to keep track of your savings at all times.

2) Online Shopping

(SoleStruck, 2012)
Online shopping drastically reduces kinematic load by allowing consumers to shop 24/7 without having to travel from store to store. Consumers are able to search for their favourite items (such as shoes seen on and brands online from stores that are located across the globe. Cognitive load is reduced as figuring out how to get to stores and when no longer matters. Consumers can also sign up to many online stores to receive email updates on new stock thus allowing people to never miss out on new and improved items they may want and/or need. Size conversion and price conversion charts are also a common aspect of online stores allowing people around the globe to know how much something is in their currency and exactly what size will fit their measurements. Unfortunately some online shops do not offer international shipping, not all sites ship items for free and some online stores may overprice goods which can increase kinematic and cognitive load, however, with the help of the internet it is very simple to search for other online shops that may offer the same items for a cheaper price, cheaper or free shipment and offer to ship everywhere.

3) Online Movie Rentals

 (BigPond, 2012)
Being able to rent movies online means that anyone anywhere (with internet accessibility) is able to order movies or tv shows to be sent straight to them, reducing the kinematic load. People no longer have to go out to a rental store or any store to physically browse then purchase something to watch. Instead they can search the show online on a site such as  from the comfort of their own home. Much like the previous two examples, online movie rentals can be done 24/7.

Works Cited:
Benson, E. S. (2006). Psychology by Design  Retrieved May 24, 2012, from

BigPond. (2012). BigPond Movies  Retrieved May 22, 2012, from

CommBank. (2012). Commonwealth Bank of Australia  Retrieved May 22, 2012, from

Lidwell, W., Holden, K., & Butler, J. (2003). Aesthetic-Usability Effect. In Universal Principles of Design (pp. 148-149). Massachusets: Rockport.

Malamed, C. (2012). Chunking Information for Instructional Design  Retrieved May 22, 2012, from

Miller, G. A. (1955). The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two. Some Limits on Our Capacity for Processing Information. Retrieved from GA Magical Seven Psych Review 1955.pdf

Plass, J. L., Moreno, R., Brunken, R. (2010). Cognitive Load Theory. New York: Cambridge university Press.

SoleStruck. (2012). SoleStruck  Retrieved May 22, 2012, from


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