7 — If they’re related, group them

Your users are constantly making sense of this brave new world you’ve created. They are continually burning through mental processes. They’re willing to put that effort in so they can ultimately reach their goals and experience their desired outcome. Whatever you can do to help reduce or manage those mental processes will be greatly (and subconsciously) appreciated by your users. There is a lot to this but these can help: proximity and similarity.

Proximity is when elements are closer together they tend to be perceived as a unified group. The brain intuitively makes the leap that those items are as one unit. What is in that group would be seen as related, and probably should be.

Similarity is when elements are sharing common characteristics to each other they’re also perceived as related with a common understanding between them. That similarity could be in how they look, the size, colour or even orientation.

It’s why related objectives to managing comments such as “view the comments”, “sort the comments”, “remove a comment” would likely be grouped together visually on one whole or part of a screen. The brain associates those as being related. It wouldn’t make much sense to throw a logout button in amongst them.

It’s also why it’s important to think of the visual consistencies your elements have. Such as the size of headers, colours of buttons, the appearance of what’s clickable. The elements that share common similarities (size, shape, colour, etc) will quickly have a learnt understanding for your user. They shouldn’t have to second guess again and again what something is. They should learn what it is once, so they can recognise it again.


Your user is constantly making meaning with your app. Whenever you present something to the user, think about the proximity of what you’re grouping. And with your app at large, think of what is similar in colour, size or shape. The way the user perceives these will have an effect on the way they comprehend, understand and experience your app.

Further learning topics: Gestalt Principles, Law Of Proximity, Law Of Similarity

James Morris

Hey, I'm James 👋 I want to know what you think and would love some feedback. Just reach out over email. Say hey!