Hick’s Law (also known as Hick–Hyman law) says that the time and effort taken for a person to make a decision increases with the number of options available.
In short, the more options available, the longer it’ll take for you to make a decision.
This is crucial in design, especially when it comes to digital products like apps and websites because our goal is to guide the user to complete a specific action.
The fewer options there are on the screen, the faster the user will arrive at a decision.
How do I use Hick’s Law?
We can apply this to design by simplifying complex processes.
This could involve reducing the number of choices on a screen and making the interface more user-friendly.
Let’s take payment processes as an example.
We’ve all been there; when you’re hoping to buy something online and the payment process seems overly complicated and time-consuming. It leads to frustration and, more often than not, you giving up entirely.
That’s not how you want your users to feel or act.
Amazon seems to have nailed this. They make it so easy, you can buy with one click if you’re already logged in. Great news for Amazon, not so great for our wallets.
Traps to avoid with Hick’s Law.
The trick with getting Hick’s Law right is all about balance.
You must hit a certain sweet spot.
Simplifying navigation and your user journey by limiting the number of choices on each screen is all well and good, but you don’t want to break it down so much that the user becomes bored and drops off before reaching the goal.
The aim of Hick’s Law is to simplify decision-making, but you don’t have to eliminate the process completely.
Take another look at the Amazon example above. There isn’t only one option, but the process is still simple.
Getting started with Hick’s Law.
To get started with Hick’s Law, take a look at how people are using your site. You can look at how long users are spending on your website and on specific pages with Google Analytics, or if you want to take it a step further and track their exact cursor movements, you could invest in a tool like HotJar.
Generally, if you find that people are spending too much time on one page, they could be distracted. Meanwhile, not enough time usually means they’ve left without making a decision or completing the call to action (buy/enquire/sign up now).
From these analytics, you can focus your energy on optimising the design on these pages. Providing them with just the right amount of options.
Additionally, you could also conduct a bit of user research.
Card sorting is a popular method used by designers when they’re looking at structuring a site. Depending on what you need, you can conduct an Open or Closed card sort.
Users are asked to organise topics from your website content into groups (either pre-defined categories or labels created by them). This helps you understand how potential customers would navigate through your site and prioritise content.
- Break down complex tasks into smaller steps.
- Highlight recommended options to avoid overwhelm.
- Learn from your analytics and real-life users.
If you have any questions about Hick’s Law and how to use it for your business, get in touch with a member of our team right now.