When we’re presented with every available option, it’s actually harder to find the thing we want. Too much choice is detrimental to our decision making.
Imagine you’re in the supermarket and you’re looking for a can of beans. There are 3 options:
- Supermarket’s Own ‘finest’ range, or
- Supermarket’s Own ‘budget’
Making a decision is simple; you either go for the premium, the average or the budget.
Now, let’s imagine you’re in another supermarket
and there’s a whole isle dedicated to beans. There are:
- 2 rows,
- 12 gondolas
- 48 shelves
- 52 brands
- 134 flavours
- 56 price points, and
- 16 special offers
Making a decision here is a nightmare. Even if you know exactly what you want, finding it is still hard because you have to browse over and sift through everything you don’t want just to find something you do.
The Paradox of Choice
Barry Schwartz unearthed this theory in his book, The Paradox of Choice, proving it through a study of jam. Barry uses this example in the retail environment, but it’s even more pertinent when it comes to web design, especially on transactional, information-driven, public or third sector websites.
Speed is of the essence
Online, people mostly just want to get things done quickly. To facilitate this, consider limiting choice. Tell user’s where to go and what to do. Make it painfully obvious.
This is easier said than done, but if things were easy, I’d be sitting on a stuffed lion with David Attenborough, pissed on Cognac, eating caviar that was caught off the coast of Russia by Meryl Streep, whilst having my feet tickled by a gas mask and a fluffy-cuff-wearing Angelina Jolie.
Fancy a bit more of that, do you?
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