I am missing a term to describe the mental load which is needed for a human to parse a large menu.

For example I want to switch to google forms:


My eyes need to parse the symbols and/or text to find the right place to click.

I would call it "eye load" but I think this term does not exist.

If you compare this to an autocomplete solution, where a user can enter a text, then an autocomplete solution needs much less "eye load".

The term I am searching should be a sub-type of "cognitive load". That's why "eye load" came to my mind.

Is there a common UX term for this?

  • Informally (in situations where humor would be OK), I've heard it called an "eye chart".
    – Izquierdo
    Commented Apr 8, 2021 at 15:00

3 Answers 3


I don't know the exact UX term, but your question is directly related to eyetracking. (Wikipedia)

Eye tracking is the process of measuring either the point of gaze (where one is looking) or the motion of an eye relative to the head.

While it is not exactly about measurement, there are several possible terms to highlight in the description.

Eye fixation

Eye fixation or visual fixation is the maintaining of the visual gaze on a single location. Humans (and other animals with a fovea) typically alternate saccades and visual fixations, the notable exception being in smooth pursuit, controlled by a different neural substrate that appear to have developed for hunting prey.

...an autocomplete solution needs much less "eye fixation".


I still think "cognitive load" is the most effective and is something that most people can understand when you reference that the visuals or visual stimuli is creating a large cognitive load. I have also heard "eye chart" as another user cited, but I don't think it's as effective in communicating that you are calling out a negative. Cognitive load caused by something visual still causes us emotional or physical responses - not being able to make a decision fast enough can slow our bodies down (and create hormonal responses like fight or flight & cortisol increases).

Otherwise, I would refer to Laws of UX to help you out: Law of Similarity, or Hicks Law could help you explain the phenomenon to others. Advocating for designing around Law of Pragnaz would help you communicate how to prevent that cognitive load.

  • Could you please provide a link to your definition of "Law of Pragnaz"? I found too many links, but none looked authoritative.
    – guettli
    Commented Apr 9, 2021 at 4:31
  • Thank you for the hint to Hick's Law
    – guettli
    Commented Apr 9, 2021 at 4:31
  • I 'd call it cognitive load as well. The processing of the information takes place in the brain not in the eye.
    – PhillipW
    Commented Apr 9, 2021 at 7:36
  • @guettli Did you find this one too? en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Law_of_pragnanz
    – jazZRo
    Commented Apr 9, 2021 at 17:01
  • 1
    Perceptual Grouping IS cognitive load: its your brain using existing memorised patterns to sort the incoming data. If the data is arranged in a way that the pattern will not sort ( ie "not beautiful" ) then the brain has to work harder, and may fail to totally resolve the data into images (which is how visual illusions work).
    – PhillipW
    Commented Apr 13, 2021 at 9:00

If you want the term to have a clear relationship or association with the concept of congnitive load, then perhaps 'visual cognitive load' is something you might consider?

Or if you want the category of cognitive load to be more specific about visual perception and/or visual processing then you can put those additional labels and perhaps come up with an interesting acronym :)

I don't think cognitive load is always well defined and classified because we are generally interested in the net effect or outcome of this. Whether it is a menu that has lots of icons or providing suggested terms in a search input, usually the end result we want to achieve is for the user to complete a task with more efficiency and less error. And since design principles apply a balance or combination of different techniques I guess there isn't always a need to be so specific about a particular type of cognitive load.

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