Provide fewer options

The more items, the more likelihood of procrastination.

Examples

  • If there truly are many items to choose from, help customers out by providing filters. Online department stores and hardware stores often make good use of filters to make choices manageable. 
  • Some people “satisfice” – find an option that is good enough, and then move on. Providing recommendations on the site lets these people grab and go. Netflix suggests movies based on customers’ previous viewing habits to ensure that their recommendations are as accurate as possible. Currently 75% of movies watched on Netflix come from a recommendation made on the site.

Principles

Barry Schwartz suggests in his book The Paradox of Choice that choice paralyzes us and makes us dissatisfied. The more choices we have available, the higher our expectations become. The higher our expectations, the more likely we are to be disappointed when the outcome isn’t exactly what we want. In contrast, if the only choice is “take it or leave it,” we’ll be happy that we even had that option.

How to design for fewer options

  • If you want users to make a quick decision about your services, don’t give them too many options. More choices lead to more procrastination.
  • Conversely, if you want to increase the perceived importance of a decision, or if customization is important, ensure that the only choices available to users are between multiple compatible options within narrow boundaries.
  • If you have a larger number of items, use a recommendation engine or filters to quickly bring the number down to a manageable set.
  • If you can’t easily reduce the number of available items, speed people to a decision by reassuring them with a best-choice guarantee.

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