Brined or deep-fried? White meat or dark? Stuffing or sweet potatoes? Pumpkin pie or apple?

If all that seems overwhelming to you, consider whether your customers and users are feeling the same way when they visit your site. How many products does your company offer? How many decisions do they have to make on your web pages? Are your users suffering from overchoice?

During the past few years, in an attempt to keep up with consumer expectations, companies have been offering an ever-increasing range of choices. But research has shown that having too many choices can actually make it harder for people to decide. Instead of feeling satisfied, they end up feeling overwhelmed.

This is particularly true when people don’t exactly know what they want. “Amazon sells 1,161 kinds of toilet brushes,” writes Jane Porter in Fast Company. “I know this because I recently spent an evening trying to choose one of them for the bathroom in my new apartment. Nearly an hour later, after having read countless contradictory reviews and pondering far too many choices, I felt grumpy and tired and simply gave up. The next day, I happily bought the only toilet brush the local dollar store offered.”

Porter’s not alone. “All these options reduce the likelihood that people will choose any, and reduce satisfaction when people do choose,” Barry Schwartz, a Swarthmore College social theory professor and author of The Paradox of Choice, told Elisabeth Behrmann in Bloomberg. “Lots of choices are helpful when people know what they’re looking for, but in general, people don’t know exactly what they want.”

Companies now are starting to simplify things for their customers by giving them fewer choices.

  • PwC predicts that by 2018, German automakers may stop offering so many different types of cars, because it’s to the point where there isn’t room for them all in a showroom. “While the strategy has helped boost market share, it also adds a demanding level of complexity,” Behrmann writes. “As model offerings fan out, marketing budgets need to stretch to cover more ground, and dealers sometimes struggle to explain the differences. It’s reaching a saturation point.”
  • A startup called StrideHealth is in business to make it easier for people to choose health care plans under the Affordable Care Act, because they’re finding it too difficult to choose among 50 or more plans.
  • Samsung, which has become synonymous with lots and lots of models of smartphones, said it would cut the number of models it offers by up to 30 percent next year, after its third-quarter net profit dropped by 49 percent in October. Nokia, which was recently purchased by Microsoft, came under similar criticism. “Juxtaposed against the singularity of Apple’s iPhone, which is traditionally launched in batches of one or two devices each year, it’s clear to see why simplicity works,” writes Paul Sawers in TheNextWeb. “It’s not a debate about what are the best devices, it’s that marketing one or two phones at a time is much easier than marketing 10, and makes it easier to communicate a message.”
  • This, a social media sharing service from Atlantic Media allows users to share just a single link per day. Additional examples of limited choice include: This Is My Jam, a music-sharing service that lets you share just a single song per day; and Mubi, a website that offers just 30 movies at a time, with one new one per day. “What all the aforementioned services do is strive to make decisions easier for the end-user,” Sawers writes. “They cut through the noise and promise to surface the best articles to read, songs to hear, movies to watch or rum to drink.”

It may be a cliché, but sometimes less really is more.

Related Posts