When it comes to designing sites, you are often faced with decisions of what information to present in a given area. When it comes to sites that are very dense with content, you have to be selective of what you show in any single section. If you give the user information overload, they will enter into analysis paralysis, which will often lead to decision fatigue. At this point, your user will feel tired, unengaged, and likely leave the site altogether.

This is where Hick’s Law comes into play; it dictates the amount of time a user spends making their decision increases with the amount and difficulty of the choices. The beauty of this law is it’s widely applicable from user interfaces to store shelves and vending machines. 

A bowl filled with red and green apples on a blue placemat on a brown wooden table | Hick's Law

As an example, imagine being presented with the choice of an apple, banana, or orange in a cafeteria line. This is a pretty straightforward choice – the options are all very different with distinct flavor profiles, and you’ll likely make up your mind pretty quickly. However, now imagine you’re presented with these options: Granny Smith, Red Delicious, Yellow Delicious, Honey Crisp, Mcintosh, Empire, and Gala apples. It will likely take you far longer to make your decision with 7 options to choose from versus the initial 3 you were presented with, especially with the very similar options in the same category.

Hick’s Law Applied To UI Design

Keeping this in the back of your mind is a good practice when you start looking at home pages. When you provide service options and drill the user into a specific page, remember seeing the offering and all of your highly specific services at once may do nothing more than confuse the user and make it more difficult to make their decision.

Services

For instance, within our digital marketing silo, we have a whole lot of services to choose from, but we don’t list them all on the homepage. We take an approach that steps the user into the larger digital marketing category, lists the most relevant services, and first provides information so they can feel confident they know what they’re reading about. Then the user is far more equipped to make an informed decision about what they need to do next.

Pricing

You can also see this in pricing tiers. Many companies do their best to limit package options to 2 or 3. You still feel you have the autonomy of making your own choice, but you aren’t overwhelmed with mixed and matched features of 10+ packages.

Often, the company will choose to make a nudge towards one pricing package that is the best option. They will make this stand out more than the others and give it a slightly different visual treatment as well to really highlight it. This helps the user make a faster decision, and you want a quick choice especially on the pricing page.

eCommerce

Hick’s Law applies in a big way to eCommerce sites from general browsing to reviewing shopping pages as well. As an example, think about a category page where all the products under a given area are displayed. Most of the bigger players in the eCommerce world will default to a grid layout, while the rows go on as far as they need to; however, there are usually only 3 columns. This keeps the user able to focus on the task at hand. If you start getting into the territory of having 5 products in a row, then your user will start to feel more fatigued browsing and will be less likely to find what they are looking for due to the information overload.

Remember To Follow These Guidelines:

  • Don’t offer up every option right away if it’s not absolutely necessary
  • When you need a fast decision, simplify and reduce the number of options as much as possible
  • Try to create a journey to help users learn as they go and make informed decisions along the way
  • Don’t be afraid to put emphasis on the best choice
  • Be wary of oversimplifying to the point where the user is unsure because of lack of detail
Get a Website Audit & Tips to Apply This Law

Let us know how you will be applying Hick’s Law to your site! Not sure how to apply it, don’t worry. We can provide you with a website audit and tips on how to apply this law to increase the user experience – contact us today. 

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