Hick’s Law: 11 Ways to simplify choices and boost engagement

Prathamesh Krisang

Hick’s Law states that the time it takes for a person to make a decision increases with the number and complexity of choices. So, the more options you give someone, the longer it takes for them to decide.

Here are some ways to leverage Hick’s Law in your marketing, sales, branding, design, and advertising efforts:

1. Offer Fewer Choices

Offering fewer choices is a strategy that involves limiting the options available to customers in order to simplify their decision-making process and increase engagement. This idea is based on the concept that too many choices can be overwhelming and lead to decision paralysis, where the customer is unable to make a decision at all.

By limiting the options, the customer is presented with a manageable number of choices, which can help them make a decision more quickly and easily. This can lead to higher levels of customer satisfaction, as they are able to find what they are looking for without feeling overwhelmed or frustrated.

This strategy can be particularly effective in situations where the customer has limited time or is feeling overwhelmed.

Example: A clothing retailer offers a limited selection of seasonal clothing items, such as t-shirts and shorts in the summer, and jackets and boots in the winter. By focusing on a smaller number of popular styles and colors for each season, the retailer makes it easier for customers to find what they’re looking for and make a quick purchase. The limited selection also helps the retailer keep inventory and production costs under control, ensuring that the customer always receives high-quality products. The simplicity and quality of the limited selection helps the retailer build a loyal customer base, who appreciate the streamlined shopping experience.

2. Make Choices Distinct

Making choices distinct means clearly differentiating between options. This can be achieved through labeling, categorizing, or using different colors, images, or descriptions. The goal is to make it easier for customers to understand the differences between options and make a quicker decision.

Example: A car dealership offers a wide selection of vehicles, but divides them into distinct categories such as “SUVs,” “Sedans,” and “Sports Cars.” Each category is displayed separately, with clear images and descriptions, making it easy for customers to understand the differences between each type of vehicle.

3. Group Similar Options

Grouping similar options together involves organizing choices into categories or clusters based on similarities, such as type, function, or theme. This helps customers understand the relationship between different options and quickly find what they’re looking for. Grouping also helps simplify the decision-making process, as customers are presented with a smaller set of options that are related to each other, rather than a long list of unrelated choices.

Example: Netflix categorizes movies and TV shows into genres.

4. Use Visual Aids

Using visual aids involves incorporating images, diagrams, videos, or other visual elements to help customers understand the options available to them. This type of information helps customers make more informed decisions, as they can see what the products look like, how they function, and what they’re made of. Visual aids also make the decision-making process faster and more engaging, as customers can easily compare options and make an informed choice.

Example: An e-commerce website that sells shoes includes clear images of each shoe, as well as diagrams showing the different features, such as support, breathability, and style. The website also offers zoom-in and 360-degree views of each shoe, allowing customers to see the shoes from every angle.

5. Provide Recommendations

Providing recommendations is a great way to help customers make a decision. By using data and algorithms to suggest products based on previous choices or behaviors, you can highlight the best options for each customer and simplify the decision-making process. This type of personalization can increase customer engagement, as it shows that you understand their needs and preferences.

Example: A food delivery app that provides recommendations based on a customer’s past orders. The app might suggest similar dishes or restaurants based on the customer’s preferences, making it easier for them to find a meal they will enjoy. This not only saves time for the customer but also increases customer engagement, as it shows that the app understands their tastes and preferences.

6. Provide Detailed Information

By offering comprehensive details about each option, customers can easily compare the options and make an informed decision. This information can include features, specs, pricing, and any other relevant details that help customers understand the options better. The more information customers have, the more confident they’ll feel in making a decision.

Example: A SaaS company that provides project management software could provide detailed information about the features and capabilities of their software, such as task management, team collaboration, time tracking, and more. This information can be presented in the form of product descriptions, demo videos, and user guides, and can help potential customers understand how the software works and whether it’s a good fit for their needs.

7. Offer Live Chat

Offering a live chat can help customers understand the choices and make a decision faster. A live chat representative can provide personalized recommendations and answer any questions the customer may have. This not only simplifies the decision-making process but also enhances the overall customer experience.

Example: When buying a property, there are many options and factors to consider, from location to budget to amenities. A live chat with a property expert can simplify the decision-making process by providing personalized and instant support to potential buyers. The expert can answer questions about specific properties, offer recommendations based on the buyer’s needs and preferences, and provide guidance on the buying process.

8. Use Product Comparison Tables

Product comparison tables are a useful tool for helping customers understand the choices and make a decision faster. By presenting all the options in a clear and organized manner, customers can easily see the pros and cons of each option and make a more informed decision. This can save them time and effort compared to reading through multiple product descriptions.

Example: A smartphone brand can use a product comparison table to compare their different models. For example, if a brand has 3 different models- A, B, and C, they can create a table that highlights the key features of each model such as battery life, camera quality, storage, screen size, and more. This makes it easier for customers to compare the options and determine which model best suits their needs.

9. Provide Customer Reviews

Customer reviews can be a valuable tool in the decision-making process. By showing the experiences and opinions of other customers, you can provide potential customers with a more well-rounded understanding of the products they are considering.

Example: A travel website could provide customer reviews and ratings for different hotels and destinations, which would help users make a decision on where to stay or visit.

10. Offer a Quiz

By asking specific questions about the customer’s needs and preferences, the quiz can help guide the customer towards the best options for them. This can make the decision-making process faster and more efficient. Additionally, it can help customers feel more confident in their purchase, as they know the options have been specifically tailored to their needs.

Example: If you’re selling skincare products, create a quiz that asks customers about their skin type and recommends products based on their answers.

11. Use Interactive Product Demonstrations

Interactive product demonstrations help customers to have a hands-on experience of the products they are interested in, which can make it easier for them to visualize how the products will work in their own environment. By providing customers with an interactive experience, they can see the different features of each item, how it works, and if it would be a good fit for their needs. This can lead to a quicker decision-making process and increase customer satisfaction as they are able to see the product in action before making a purchase.

Example: A virtual reality or augmented reality experience for furniture shopping. A customer could use an AR app on their phone to place furniture in their living room and see how it fits and looks before making a purchase. This can help customers better visualize the options and make a more informed decision.

There are several cognitive biases that are similar to Hick’s Law:

Paradox of Choice: The Paradox of Choice states that having too many options can lead to decision paralysis and lower levels of satisfaction with the decision made.

Availability Bias: The Availability Bias refers to the tendency for people to rely too heavily on easily available information when making decisions, rather than taking into account all relevant information.

Sunk Cost Fallacy: The Sunk Cost Fallacy is the tendency for people to persist in an action or decision because they have already invested resources into it, even if the decision is no longer rational or the best course of action.


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Hick’s Law: Understanding How It Can Improve User Experience by Nick Babich, published on Smashing Magazine: https://www.smashingmagazine.com/2017/02/hicks-law-user-experience/

Hick’s Law: How to Streamline Choices for Your Customers by Meghan Dornbrock, published on the InVision blog: https://www.invisionapp.com/blog/hicks-law/