Cognitive load adds friction into your user experience, but there’s a way to reduce it while preserving the resources of your product team.

In user experience (UX) design, friction is synonymous with cognitive load. However, UX optimization does not have to be a time-consuming process.

One way of reducing cognitive load without impeding the bandwidth of your product team is to do it through API integrations. Learn more about why it’s important to minimize cognitive load and how leading marketing technology platforms are doing so with the Shutterstock API.

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What is cognitive load?

How APIs Can Reduce Cognitive Load for Your Users — What is cognitive load?
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In UX design, the term cognitive load describes the mental strain needed to navigate a platform. Any action that detracts from the momentum to finish a task adds to a user’s cognitive load, which pushes him or her closer to abandoning the task at hand.

Why reducing cognitive load is important

How APIs Can Reduce Cognitive Load for Your Users — Reducing cognitive load
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The Interaction Design Foundation notes that the 10-year stock price growth for design-centric companies outperformed the S&P index by 228%.

In fact, they identified the 5 areas where UX optimization can deliver ROI:

  • Boosted overall revenue/conversion — because of greater ease of use, better emotional attachment to the brand, and resulting customer loyalty.

  • Increased customer satisfaction, also business-to-business satisfaction — because customers love well-designed products that give them what they need and want (and what they don’t know they need and want).

  • Lower support calls — because pre-empting so many likely user problems via UX techniques lowers the company’s costs.

  • Reduced development waste — which increases development efficiency and thus saves money in the development phase.

  • Reduced risk of building the wrong thing! User research is a tool to find out what your customers will find to be the most usable and valuable.

How APIs can help

How APIs Can Reduce Cognitive Load for Your Users — How APIs can help
Image by Sergey Nivens.

Given that APIs enable applications to easily and quickly exchange data with other applications and servers, they allow your product to deliver more assets, information, and functionality without reproducing what is readily available. API integrations reduce friction by eliminating cognitive load at critical junctures in UX, such as search and asset upload. In doing so, API integrations can streamline user workflow, decrease project completion rates, and improve user retention.

The majority of consumers are familiar with APIs, even if they don’t recognize an integration as such. A common API integration is the Google Maps API, which allows online retailers to offer a “Find Your Store” feature directly on their websites thus preventing users from leaving their website to conduct the search. By reducing the extra steps of locating a store in a separate tab, the Google Maps API integration allows stores make the process of visiting a store as seamless as possible.

The Shutterstock API allows ad builders, video creation platforms, and additional martech solutions to provide over 200 million high-quality images, video clips, and music tracks natively in their creative interface. Unsurprisingly, the fastest companies to integrate the Shutterstock API are design-centric companies such as IBM, Facebook, Wix, and Google.

The Shutterstock API allows our partners to do the following:

  • Eliminate extra steps that add significant cognitive load: when faced with the prompt to upload an image or video, users are forced leave their creative workflow to search, check usage rights, download, and then return to upload. With the API, royalty-free assets are available at their fingertips.
  • Provide premium assets that boost user success: going further than reducing the number of user tasks, the Shutterstock API is backed by a vetted Shutterstock library of over 200 million images, video clips, and music tracks.
  • Enhance platform functionalities: to help users have an optimal search experience, Shutterstock has developed a best-in-class search with advanced search filters, AI-powered reverse image search, and flexibility for search customization. Moreover, you can offer the Shutterstock Editor to give your users even more options to customize their visual assets.


To help your company stay competitive amidst changes in consumer habits and preferences, reducing cognitive load should be a priority. APIs can improve retention, project completion rates, and user success.

UX-centered companies such as Facebook, Google, IBM, and Wix have already integrated with the Shutterstock API to deliver a frictionless product as part of their competitive strategy. Contact us today for a free consultation to see how the Shutterstock API can help you optimize UX.

Cover image by Cathal_Shtadler.