How To Help Users Make Quick Choices

How can interface designers help users make quick choices? When a task is repetitive or time-critical, every second counts.

Remembering Hick’s Law helps users make quick decisions:

The amount of time to make a decision increases with the number of choices.

In other words,

Limit the number of things to choose from.


Picking from 300 other flavors takes a lot longer than picking between chocolate and vanilla.

Intuitively, Hick’s Law makes sense. If you have 300 flavors of ice cream, a user might want to examine every flavor. When there’s only chocolate and vanilla, it’s easy to pick one or the other.

Some websites and products sport an ever-increasing feature set. These masses of options and configurations slow down users, which can have disastrous effects during emergencies (“I can’t find the exit button!”). If the user needs to select from a large number of options quickly, consider grouping related options into categories, such as a tree structure.

Lastly, Hick’s law doesn’t apply in high-complexity situations, or in tasks require a lot of concentration. It’s most applicable to simple tasks.

Have you ever used an interface that had too many choices? How else can interface designers help users make choices quickly?

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2 Responses to How To Help Users Make Quick Choices

  1. Pingback: Making it Easy | Sheldon's Software

  2. Pingback: The One Thing You Need to Understand Before You Write a Resume | Sheldon's Software

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