Pre-pick your preferred option

Prime people so they are open to accepting the choice you highlight.


  • The more subtle approach works by showing potential customers evidence of people being successful after choosing the preferred option. This way, because they’ve seen the same recommendation elsewhere before they make the decision, then social proof will kick in, convincing them that this is the correct choice.
  • Another way to prime is to draw people in with a proposition such as “best value” or “highest quality”, and then label the preferred option as the one that provides the value or quality
  • A more blatant but effective form of priming happens within the list of options. Adding a word such as “recommended” or “preferred” can either rely on social proof (most people do this) or authority (we say you should do this.) When Microsoft wanted more people to enable automatic updates within Windows XP (with good intentions;it helped prevent virus proliferation) it relied on its authority as the creator of the operating system to recommend a course of action during the installation process.


Psychologists have known for a long time that if they show you specific words or pictures beforehand, you’ll find it easier to recall those items or related ones in a later test, even after you have consciously forgotten the specific words. This effect is called priming.

This is one reason why you see so much brand-related advertising. Rather than specifically telling you to buy a certain thing, the adverts build a picture of a brand associated with a specific location (say a bar), emotion (perhaps happiness), or occasion (for instance a celebration). The next time you are in a bar for someone’s birthday party, all that brand priming comes straight back from your subconscious brain and hits you. Now you aren’t going to get a rum and coke; you’re going to get a Bacardi and Coca-Cola. You’re not going to buy a beer; you’re going to buy a Budweiser.

How to design for preferred options

  • Convince people that you have given them sufficient information to make a decision by priming them so that the options you present seem familiar rather than strange.
  • Ensure your recommendations look credible by priming with supporting information or demonstrations of your authority on that topic.
  • Put the action that you want people to perform as the default. As long as you’ve built up sufficient credibility, they’ll do what you want.

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