by anthony on 06/29/10 at 11:09 am
I don’t know if it’s just me, but it feels like efficiency is often underestimated. People focus on outcome and results so much that they forget that the means to the end is just as important. For example, when I’m at a restaurant looking at a menu that has a myriad of choices and I can’t decide what I want, it not only takes me a while to decide, but I worry about making the wrong choice and later regretting it. The same thing happens to people when they are at a website and there’s a myriad of links in the menu to choose from. It not only takes them much longer to decide, but the probability of error increases when they are faced with too many choices.
Hick’s Law states that the time it takes to make a decision increases as the number of alternatives increases. There’s an element to Hick’s Law that it does not bring attention to. There is a lot of emotional stress that comes when people are overwhelmed with too many choices. People can worry about making the wrong choice, worry about not understanding the differences of each choice or worry that they are spending far too much time figuring out what to choose. Thus, Hick’s Law doesn’t just deal with minimizing response times and error rates, but it deals with minimizing emotional stress as well.
Another element to Hick’s Law is the element of distinction. A widespread habit I see on websites are the many options of closely related menu titles in the navigation. This careless mistake people make can cause confusion and inefficiency for users. When the name of a section in the menu is too closely related to the name of another section it can slow user decision-making down and cause users to wonder and question what makes one section of the site different from another. The name you use for each section in your navigation menu should be distinctly different. If they are the least bit similar, you could risk decreasing user efficiency.
I would like to apply my variation to Hick’s Law. The new Hick’s Law (Anthony’s Law) states that the time and emotional energy it takes to make a decision increases as the number of indistinct alternatives increases.