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User Experience and the Psychology of Web Decision Making

User Experience and the Psychology of Web Decision Making

Are more choices always better?

Maybe not. Take the following law of psychology into account if you want to 1) improve site metrics and 2) avoid giving website visitors extra work they never asked for.

Hick’s Law 101

Hick’s Law (or the Hick-Hyman Law) is named after a British and an American psychologist team of William Edmund Hick and Ray Hyman. In 1952, this pair set out to examine the relationship between the number of stimuli present and an individual’s reaction time to any given stimulus.

As you’d expect, the greater the number of choices, the longer the reaction time. People bombarded with choices have to take time to interpret and decide – which is essentially giving them work they don’t want (Read: Interaction Design).

Once You Know What It Is, It’s Everywhere

Have you ever tried to order from a new restaurant, took one glance at the menu, and were immediately overwhelmed? Maybe you even gave up on the spot and ordered from your favorite place instead. As we all experience countless times a day, in countless ways, simplicity has a subtle power in a world of information overload.

Hick’s Law offers a starting approach for making sure your message resonates with website visitors. For example, when designing a landing page, focus the attention of your audience with a clear and simple design hierarchy. Having an overwhelming amount of information, components, fonts and colors can immediately cause your bounce rate to soar. Selecting the content you want to prioritize in your design is essential.

Applying the Principles to a Website Audit

Here’s an example of how to apply Hick’s Law and design principles to audit your website.

  1. View Analytics: This is a great starting point, as always, because you can identify the pages form which users are leaving. Bounce/exit rates, page views, and time on site are key areas to evaluate.
  2. Analyze Pages Flagged: Conduct a thorough analysis of each page that your analysis targeted as a red flag. Pinpoint areas where there is an overwhelming amount of information, cluttered design or confusing functionality.
  3. Make and Test Changes: Identify the priority for each flagged page, and then streamline the content to better serve that priority. The next step is testing. Be sure to compare pre- and post-change analytics to gauge their effectiveness. The good news is that the more times you do this, the better feel you’ve have for the ideal balance of content from the beginning.

UX is all about designing for humans. Understanding and applying Hick’s Law is one more tool you can pack in your UX toolbox for building a site that gets results – because it gets to the heart of human behavior. NK is here to help.

NK is here to help optimize you site with effective UX design and more.

Posted in: Thoughts
Tags: design, web
December 02, 2020

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