In 2004, Jakob Neilson wrote about two studies that looked at a database of websites and compiled a list of standard UI patterns based on usage. The studies looked at 100's of web pages and categorized common elements as either a standard, convention, or confusion, using the following rules:

Standard: 80% or more of websites use the same design approach. Users strongly expect standard elements to work a certain way when they visit a new site because that's how things always work.

Convention: 50-79% of websites use the same design approach. With a convention, users expect elements to work a certain way when they visit a new site because that's how things usually work.

Confusion: with these elements, no single design approach dominates, and even the most popular approach is used by at most 49% of websites. For such design elements, users don't know what to expect when they visit a new site.

I've seen a lot of websites and other resources that list out different kinds of UI patterns, but none that I've seen mention usage or standardization. I would be interesting to have a method for defining how standardized something is, based on usage.

  1. Does such a project exists?
  2. Would it even be possible or helpful?
  • 1
    Yes there are standards. Standards such as Logo top left and clickable. You should find it very quickly very google. Please note that many very famous websites such as facebook or tumblr fall out of the scheme because they're pipular enough to ethablish rheirbown standards
    – BlueWizard
    Commented Jun 22, 2015 at 10:24
  • @ BlueWizard - what you mention is a common practice. A standard differs by being something formally adopted, described to detail and published, with guidelines for its adherence and testing for adherence.
    – drabsv
    Commented Nov 19, 2021 at 10:31

1 Answer 1


Different website types require different interfaces, so there's no "one pattern fits all". However, it's easy enough to find resources for particular parts of a website, such as input (form), menues, navigation bars, user-generated content etc.

A good place to start (though it's a bit "popular science") is: http://ui-patterns.com/

On a more scientific approach, the main aspect that's influencing the quality of the users' experience is how low the cognitive effort that is required to perform all tasks related to using the website, be it extracting information and data or performing actions. Cognitive effort is strongly correlated with focus and attention - The less attention required to perform a task, the lower the cognitive effort it requires. The best analogy for focus is to depict it as a single spotlight. True uninterrupted focus can only be directed to one object at a time, there is no real "multi-tasking" in terms of focus and attention. Multi-tasking is only made possible due to the brain's ability to perform frequently-required tasks without dedicated focus (without pointing the spotlight on the frequent task). Because focus and attention are a very limited resource, the brain seeks patterns and similarities to reduce the distinct cognitive effort required for the task. This sort of "muscle memory" is the reason you can drive home with your mind wondering off elsewhere.

So, back to UI pattern design

At the end of the day - it's a "chicken and egg" case. All "standard" patterns can only be considered standard given their frequency. If the norm changes, and many websites start implementing new patterns - those patterns would very quickly become better standards than the "classic" ones.


The best approach for designing a new website, in my honest opinion, is to identify the parts your site requires, and then research the current norms and standards. The more your design resembles current norm, the less cognitive effort would be required from your users, the better the experience would be.

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