Recency Effect

Recency Effect: Leveraging Memory Bias in UX Design

The recency effect is a cognitive bias where users are more likely to remember the last items in a sequence better than those presented in the middle. In UX design, understanding and leveraging the recency effect can enhance user experience, improve information retention, and influence user behavior effectively.

What is the Recency Effect?

The recency effect is a psychological phenomenon where individuals recall the most recently presented information more vividly than earlier information. This bias is particularly relevant when users are presented with a list of items or steps in a process. The last items are more likely to be retained in short-term memory, making them more accessible when users need to recall information or make decisions.

Importance of the Recency Effect in UX Design

  1. Improved Information Retention: By placing important information at the end of a list or sequence, designers can enhance the likelihood that users will remember it.
  2. Enhanced User Guidance: Leveraging the recency effect can guide users more effectively through processes and interactions, ensuring that critical steps are not overlooked.
  3. Influence on Decision Making: The placement of key options or calls to action at the end of a sequence can positively influence user decisions and actions.
  4. Better User Experience: Understanding and utilizing cognitive biases like the recency effect can lead to more intuitive and user-friendly designs.

Key Principles for Applying the Recency Effect in UX Design

  1. Highlight Important Information: Place essential information, actions, or calls to action at the end of lists or sequences to ensure they are remembered and acted upon.
  2. End on a High Note: Conclude interactions and processes with positive or rewarding information to leave a lasting impression and encourage repeat engagement.
  3. Simplify Navigation: Use the recency effect to make navigation easier by placing frequently used actions or links at the end of menus or lists.
  4. Consider User Workflows: Design workflows and processes so that the most critical steps or information are presented last, enhancing recall and comprehension.

Best Practices for Leveraging the Recency Effect

  1. Optimize Lists and Menus: When designing lists, menus, or navigation bars, place the most important or frequently accessed items at the end.
  2. Design Effective CTAs: Position calls to action (CTAs) like “Sign Up,” “Buy Now,” or “Contact Us” at the end of the user journey to capitalize on the recency effect and drive conversions.
  3. End with Key Messages: In onboarding sequences, tutorials, or multi-step forms, ensure that the final step includes a summary or key takeaways to reinforce learning and retention.
  4. Feedback and Confirmation: Provide feedback or confirmation messages at the end of interactions to reassure users and leave a positive, memorable experience.
  5. Testing and Iteration: Conduct usability testing to observe how users interact with the design and iterate based on feedback to optimize the placement of critical information.

Tools for Implementing the Recency Effect

  1. Prototyping Tools: Use tools like Figma, Adobe XD, and Sketch to design and prototype interfaces that effectively utilize the recency effect.
  2. User Testing Platforms: Platforms like UserTesting, Lookback, and Maze can help gather insights on how users recall and interact with information based on its placement.
  3. Analytics Tools: Tools like Google Analytics and Hotjar provide data on user interactions, helping designers understand which elements are most effective when placed at the end.
  4. A/B Testing Tools: Use tools like Optimizely and VWO to experiment with different placements of information and actions to determine what works best for leveraging the recency effect.

Real-World Examples

  1. E-commerce Checkouts: Online retailers like Amazon place important actions like “Review Order” and “Place Order” at the end of the checkout process to ensure users remember and complete these steps.
  2. Subscription Services: Platforms like Netflix and Spotify end their onboarding processes with key actions like “Start Free Trial” or “Choose Plan” to maximize conversions.
  3. Task Management Apps: Apps like Trello and Asana place frequently used actions, such as adding a new task or project, at the end of lists or menus for easy access and recall.
  4. Educational Platforms: Online learning platforms like Coursera and Khan Academy end lessons with key takeaways or summaries to reinforce learning and retention.
  5. News Websites: News websites like BBC and The New York Times place important links or related articles at the end of articles to keep readers engaged and on the site longer.


The recency effect is a powerful tool in UX design that can enhance user experience, improve information retention, and influence user behavior. By strategically placing important information, actions, and messages at the end of lists or sequences, designers can leverage this cognitive bias to create more effective and user-friendly interfaces. Implementing best practices and using the right tools ensures that the recency effect is effectively utilized to achieve design goals and enhance overall user satisfaction.

Ondrej Zoricak
Ondrej Zoricak