The Paradox of choice

You might think that having many options to choose from is good. But science shows that is not necessarily so – in fact, mostly the opposite is the case.

Read on why this is crucial for your UX work!


Imagine you won a dinner for two in a fancy roof top restaurant. The variety of cocktails is outstanding, you would love to try them all. But you are limited by your budget and can have only one. So, you need to decide on one of the available 25 cocktails.

Now think of the selection process a bit differently. You have to decide on which 24 cocktails to relinquish (give up).

After the cocktail is served, you taste it, and your brain subconsciously starts evaluating your choice.  (It always does that; you cannot keep it from doing so!) Could I have done better? Maybe a cocktail with less fruit? Why didn’t I try something completely new? And the more options you had in the first place, the more likely your brain conclude: Yes, you could have done better! And your satisfaction with your choice decreases. And who is at fault? Yourself!  But if the choice had only been between 8 cocktails, you would only have to relinquish 7 and your brain is more likely to congratulate you on your good choice!

Still think having many options is always good? Science calls this phenomenon the “paradox of choice”.

In web-, service- or product- design, product managers and designers often think that they must provide as many choices and options as possible, so that everybody will find their perfect fit. But thereby they oversee the fact, that they leave most people unsatisfied with their final choice or at least unsecure about it.

Next time you think about providing options for your users, think whether all of them are really necessary from the suers perspective! 

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