How to Make Choice Feel Effortless

Paul Boag

This week on the Boagworld Show, we ask how can we make the decision to act feel as effortless as possible for users.

This week’s show is sponsored by Balsamiq and .tech domains.


Paul Boag: Hello, and welcome to the Boag World Show, the podcast about all aspects of digital design, inaudible 00:00:35 strategy. My name is Paul Boag, and joining me inaudible 00:00:38 on this week's show is Marcus Lillington, and the room, and the room, and the room.

Marcus L: crosstalk 00:00:42. And the room. How many people in the room this week? It must be more than last week.

Paul Boag: Thousands. Thousands. Actually, we have increased in numbers.

Marcus L: Yay. At least two, yes.

Paul Boag: We've got a massive total of … Oh. I was about to say 26 people listening, and it immediately then went down to 25.

Marcus L: Yeah, I am not a number.

Paul Boag: Well, no. Although, to be quite honest, after the start that we had trying to get it up and running today, I don't blame them.

Marcus L: Do you know, or do you want to know … The answer's yes by the way, Paul.

Paul Boag: Okay.

Marcus L: Do you want to know why I didn't have my headphone adaptor, and why it set you all off in a bad place and nothing worked after that? Do you want to know why?

Paul Boag: Right. Go on then.

Marcus L: I got myself a new toy in this last week that I've been talking about for about 10 years. I had to take the headphone adaptor off at home to put it into this little amp thing I've got. Anyway, boring, boring. I've got a pedal steel guitar.

Paul Boag: Nobody cares.

Marcus L: You don't know what that is, do you? You don't know what that is.

Paul Boag: Actually, I do know what it is-

Marcus L: Really?

Paul Boag: … because you've been going on about it for 10 years.

Marcus L: Oh, right. Okay. Anyway, I've got one. How lovely. Although it's very hard.

Paul Boag: Is that the one with extra strings or something crosstalk 00:01:56?

Marcus L: Extra strings and pedals. You sit down to it, and you sort of play it … It's like a table.

Paul Boag: Yes, that was it. Yes. I knew you'd bored me with it.

Marcus L: Very hard.

Paul Boag: Is it?

Marcus L: Yeah. Oh my God, what have I done? It's like I've spent thousands of pounds on something I can't play.

Paul Boag: Yes. Well, you'll get there eventually, I imagine.

Marcus L: Yeah. Well, yeah, but I'm going to be dead in 10 years, Paul.

Paul Boag: Bloody hell. How young are you … Is there something you want to tell us, Marcus?

Marcus L: That made you look up.

Paul Boag: Has there been some kind of … Have you been to the doctors? Is this a kind of last hoorah before you check out?

Marcus L: No. It was after last week's little chat that I had about everyone's falling apart around me. It's like, watch, it's going to happen to me, isn't it?

I've played a guitar many times with a beer bottle, but not a pedal steel. It's too pretty and new.

Paul Boag: What do you mean beer bottle? What are you going on about now? How does that tie into anything?

Marcus L: The steel part-

Paul Boag: You're answering things from the chat room.

Marcus L: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Paul Boag: Stop it. Stop it. You can't do this.

Marcus L: You told me that was my job. You said that was my job.

Paul Boag: No, no, no, no. No. But, you can't just revert to things in the chat room without explaining them a) to me, and b) to the listeners who are listening later.

Marcus L: To the me, to the b, to the c. Yeah.

Paul Boag: You can't just go off on one like that. Drag it back. Perhaps we should just stop putting this out as a podcast and just do it as a live ramble.

Marcus L: It's okay.

Paul Boag: Okay.

Marcus L: It's just one comment, Paul. Come on. Just chill out.

Paul Boag: You know that the people in the chat room are just there to harass us and ruin the show. And by us, I mean me, obviously.

Marcus L: Yeah.

Paul Boag: Anyway-

Marcus L: crosstalk 00:03:43, new toy.

Paul Boag: Yes. No, that's really good. I've been playing with a new toy as well.

Marcus L: Have you?

Paul Boag: Not quite as … Mine's a bit more on theme for the podcast, 'cause I've been playing with Envision Studio.

Marcus L: Oh, right. Yeah.

Paul Boag: Have you come across that?

Marcus L: I have. Well, no, I've used Envision probably about a year ago.

Paul Boag: Yes.

Marcus L: Not used it since.

Paul Boag: No, it's not something you would necessarily-

Marcus L: It was very nice, actually.

Paul Boag: Yeah, I know. It's very easy. But, no, Envision Studio basically allows you to kind of create … Well, it's a desktop app for a start, and it allows you to join up your different screens and animate between them, and introduce a bit of animation and scrolling and all of those kinds of stuff. But, it's really, really, really easy to use. It's an absolute pleasure.

It reminds me very much of Principle I think it is, for the Mac, which does a very similar thing. So, yeah. It's brilliant. I've really enjoyed playing with that.

Marcus L: Is it expensive, Paul?

Paul Boag: No. It's free.

Marcus L: Only for a select few, I'm guessing.

Paul Boag: No, no, no. It's … No, no. Seriously, it's open for all. It's because they want you to sign up for Envision proper, and it integrates in with Envision. They actually give Envision Studio away for free.

Marcus L: Cool. Okay.

Paul Boag: Which I was kind of gobsmacked at. I don't understand why they're doing that, it seems ridiculous, but they are. So, let's not question it. It's like they give away this craft plugin, which is one of the best plugins for Sketch around. So, yeah.

Someone in the chat room, Andrew in the chat room, is asking whether I like Adobe XD, or Experience, or whatever the hell it's called. I did use it. I had a little play with it when it was in beta, but I haven't really used it much since. I mean, these things are all pretty much kind of similar to one another, aren't they, really?

They're all pretty good. I quite like them all. But, this one, because it's free-

Marcus L: crosstalk 00:05:55. You know you get these kind of things that you can build … If you're not a skilled website builder person, you can buy these things that can create one page scrolling websites with big pictures. Adobe do a really good one of those called Spark, I think it's called-

Paul Boag: Oh, yeah.

Marcus L: … I was very impressed with.

Paul Boag: Spark does-

Marcus L: So, they do do some good stuff.

Paul Boag: Yeah, yeah. It's not having a go, I'm not being anti Adobe at all.

Marcus L: No, I know you're not, but they do get a bit of stick, don't they?

Paul Boag: Yeah, although I think that's beginning to pass a little bit. They're changing and becoming much more engaged with the community again, and they're listening to people. I think people didn't like it when they went to a subscription based model, but so many things have done that now that you kind of can't pick just on Adobe on that.

Then, also, they're now creating some really good tools that are aimed specifically … Before, they had a lot of graphic design tools that were being crowbarred 00:06:53 into being web tools, but now they kind of have overcome that a lot more.

Marcus L: Okay.

Paul Boag: So, Adobe Experience, does that do animations and transitions and that kind of stuff? I'm not asking you, Marcus, obviously. I'm asking the chat room that.

Marcus L: Oh, yeah. Absolutely. Yeah, yeah.

Paul Boag: Because I know there are a lot of great tools out there that do that, but I didn't know that Adobe Experience did that. I thought it was just a kind of equivalent of Sketch. That was the other thing I really liked about Envision, Envision Studios, you can just import Sketch files in if you prefer working in Sketch, which I do.

Oh, okay. So, it does do a bit of basic interaction. Oh, that's interesting. That's Adobe Experience does that. But, I'm not looking at the chat room, so doesn't matter.

Marcus L: Failing miserably. How long have we been in? Oh, actually, 11 minutes. Doesn't time fly when you're having fun.

Paul Boag: 11 minutes. But, we have … Well, at least we are actually talking about web design related stuff.

Marcus L: True. True.

Paul Boag: Which is true. But, I'm liking the inaudible 00:07:59 channel where we seem to be mainly discussing superhero powers. Did you miss that conversation?

Marcus L: I looked at it and thought I'm far too grown up for that kind of silliness.

Paul Boag: Oh, bullshit. You must know. Everybody knows what super power they would have, Marcus. What super power would you have? Come on.

Marcus L: I think somebody said it earlier on. It's either transporter or time travel, that sort of thing.

Paul Boag: Yeah. Teleportation is the one I'd like.

Marcus L: Teleportation, that's the one. Yeah. That one. I'd like to go home now, boom. That'd be great.

Paul Boag: Yes. Well, see, that's the difference between you and me, right? You are such a home boy. I want to go home now, boom. Me? I want to go to the Maldives now, boom. I want to go to Australia now, boom. China, South America, you know? Bit different.

Marcus L: Mars.

Paul Boag: Yeah. The problem with that is you would die.

Marcus L: You'd have to have a suit on.

Paul Boag: Yeah, but where am I going to get a spacesuit from? I suppose you could … I wonder whether you could get away with wearing scuba diving gear?

Marcus L: Probably, I don't know. You might freeze to death.

Paul Boag: Yeah, your face would freeze, wouldn't it, or something like that.

Marcus L: I'm sure you could find out. There's that thing called the internet.

Paul Boag: Victor solved the problem. First of all, you teleport into NASA and steal their spacesuits.

Marcus L: Yeah.

Paul Boag: I'm not sure that that is particularly ethical in our imaginary make-believe world where I have a super power. Anyway, none of that is relevant.

There was something else I was going to talk about, and I can't remember what. Oh, I know. You know I went on a little rant when somebody accused me of saying "really" too much?

Marcus L: Yes.

Paul Boag: It was the wrong word. I say "right" too much.

Marcus L: Right.

Paul Boag: And I do do that. I know I do that.

Marcus L: Yeah.

Paul Boag: I tend to start new thoughts with "right". So, there we go.

Marcus L: It's not that bad.

Paul Boag: 67 times in that one episode.

Marcus L: So?

Paul Boag: But, apparently, in the last episode it was only 10 times, so it's better.

Marcus L: Right.

Paul Boag: Don't. Shut up.

Marcus L: I prefer "really", 'cause "really" can be used in two different ways. But, anyway, there you go.

Paul Boag: Really?

Marcus L: Yeah.

Paul Boag: Okay, Marcus, thought for the day. Headscape site redesign part two. Yeah. You're really going to string this out, aren't you?

Marcus L: This is the exciting bit. Yeah. I'm wondering how many I can get to. That can be my challenge for the series.

Paul Boag: You'll be talking about doing a whole thought for the day on a particular icon that was used on one page.

Marcus L: Nah, this is kind of relevant, and I do pull two things into this, sort of. Basically, it's about copy.

Last week, I talked a lot about how we've made our content less chatty. I actually said "less friendly", which brought in a few laughs. Didn't mean that. I just meant less chatty, less kind of chummy. So, I thought it'd be good to provide a few examples of that. What do I mean?

Paul Boag: Yes, Marcus, what do you mean?

Marcus L: What do I mean? So, this is what I mean. I found a few examples from the old site. By the way, the new Headscape site is now live, today.

Paul Boag: Oh, is it?

Marcus L: Yes. You can go and have a look, crosstalk 00:11:15

Paul Boag: You nearly did the same. You nearly got your own name of your own company wrong. You nearly did what everybody else does and call it "Headspace", that meditation app. That's so funny.

Marcus L: Yeah. So, inaudible 00:11:30. Anyway, the 404 page, our crosstalk 00:11:35

Paul Boag: When are you going to update the site so it's not got the Y frame on, and actually put the rest of the design in?

Marcus L: Yeah. So funny, Paul.

Paul Boag: I know. Sorry, carry on.

Marcus L: So, a few examples of what I mean by making the content less chatty. Our old 404 page read "Oh, no. The page is missing! That's a bit embarrassing".

Paul Boag: Oh, God. Did we really?

Marcus L: "A digital agency that loses a page, apologies. We will look into the problem and see if we can fix it. In the meantime, you might want to try any of the following". List links to the homepage, but things like "Give me a shout on Twitter".

The first thing I need to say is the second of those lines "We will look into the problem and see if we can fix it", total lie. How are you ever going to know?

Paul Boag: Well, it wasn't … It wasn't, no. It wasn't a lie when we wrote it, right? I thought, naively, that somebody would be monitoring our 404 errors and would look at fixing them. How dumb I was. But, I do-

Marcus L: But, you get 404s if somebody types the wrong URL. That's not our problem to fix.

Paul Boag: Yeah, I know, but you can see when there's been … Okay, fair enough.

Marcus L: Yeah?

Paul Boag: I give up. Yeah, all right.

Marcus L: I would. I would. Okay?

Paul Boag: Just get on with it.

Marcus L: So, a) we were lying, b) we were talking twoddle.

Paul Boag: But, people in the chat room are saying they like the new design. It's terrible. I mean, really, it's such a step back. Where's the rest of it? It's like-

Marcus L: Minimalist, man.

Paul Boag: Where the drop shadows and rounded corners, and-

Marcus L: Yeah, there aren't enough kind of … Yeah, bevelly 00:13:19 buttons.

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Marcus L: That's what we need. We need more bevelly 00:13:21 buttons. But, let me finish this particular example.

Paul Boag: Sorry.

Marcus L: The new 404 page reads as follows. "Page not found. Please try any of the following", and then some links. Very clear.

Paul Boag: That really … Yes. I do agree.

Marcus L: Spot on. Clear. You can argue it's not very friendly, but you could also argue that do you want to be sort of chatty and chummy on a 404 page?

Paul Boag: No.

Marcus L: Actually you just want to guide people, which is what we're doing.

Paul Boag: Yes, and I do agree with that. I do agree that it's not the time to be jokey and having fun, and I am embarrassed with what was, let's be honest, my copy for that page previously.

Marcus L: No, I think we can share that responsibility, Paul.

Paul Boag: Oh, can we? Okay.

Marcus L: Yes. Yes, definitely. As with the next couple.

We had an old page intro on a … It was a page about content. No, it was our contact page. Sorry, typed the wrong word. Our contact page had an intro that read as follows. "If you are interested in hiring Headscape, we would love to hear from you." Firstly, I'd say that's rather pushy. What if I don't know if I want to hire you? I might just like to have a quick chat.

Paul Boag: We don't want to hear from them. I think that's blatantly clear. Piss off, basically.

Marcus L: You could argue that, but it's possible that somebody doesn't know yet, but they'd like to talk to you about whether-

Paul Boag: Yeah, yeah, yeah. No, of course, you're right.

Marcus L: Yeah. So, anyway, the new page intro reads … nothing at all. Doesn't need anything. The old stuff is all happy talk.

Paul Boag: That is the key, what you've just said there, right? It's all happy talk. All of that stuff … I mean, it does depend … This is a stylistic choice.

Marcus L: Absolutely.

Paul Boag: I take it you're not saying that it would be bad to have some humor or some fun or something in it.

Marcus L: Absolutely not, no. It just doesn't fit. As I went on, blurbed 00:15:27 along for ages last week, on last week's show, about how our brand's changed … I think it might have been the week before. It's changed to this kind of less chatty, less friendly, young kind of thing that we were 10 plus years ago, and just trying to reflect that. And, yeah, maybe it is a little bit less friendly, but basically we're just trying to be clear and simple, 'cause we're simple.

One more then. Our old team page had the intro "Creating something successful requires specialists from lots of different fields. Headscape is made up of expert designers, developers and strategists. That said, we can't do it by ourselves. We believe in building websites together with our clients. So, if you choose to work with us, expect to roll up your sleeves and get involved. You will be contributing from start to finish". New site, guess what?

Paul Boag: Nothing.

Marcus L: Nothing at all. 'Cause I think it's, if you just look at our case studies, it's fair to say that we're experts inaudible 00:16:30 how long we've been around doing this stuff.

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Marcus L: And all the stuff about rolling up your sleeves could be taken the wrong way. In my view, or in our view, it's unnecessary blurbage 00:16:39.

So, yeah, just really kind of honing it down. That was two quite long paragraphs that have just gone completely.

Paul Boag: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Marcus L: The final point, which isn't actually about examples or that, it's just another content related thing, is … This was when we were reviewing the case studies. Be careful about dating your content with particular case studies.

Paul Boag: Yes.

Marcus L: 'Cause when you're writing a case study, a new one, you're normally excited about this new project that's just gone live. I found words like, or phrases like, "recently" and "we've just launched" and "during 2012" or 2006 I found on one of them.

You know, obviously these instantly date stuff, and don't do it. So, just consider that when you're writing case studies.

Paul Boag: But … but, but, but, Marcus.

Marcus L: But, but, but, but. Mm-hmm (affirmative)?

Paul Boag: The very first case study I opened says "In early 2017, we interviewed a number of Zuckerman attorneys".

Marcus L: Ah, right, and that's one I missed. Thanks, Paul.

Paul Boag: There you go. That's all right.

Marcus L: Can you do the rest of the site while you're there?

Paul Boag: No. I see where you're going and I totally get it. I don't know whether I would agree with it for every site, but with the kind of work that Headscape does, spot on, makes a lot of sense. You're very usability focused. You're not a branding agency. You're not a marketing agency. You're not even copywriters, you know? So, I think it's actually spot on.

Marcus L: What do we do?

Paul Boag: Clean usable design, don't you?

Marcus L: Absolutely. Well, yeah, and lots of research and stuff like that as well. But, yeah. So, that's it. Thoughts for this week, copy and the changes to copy, and something about the Headscape site no doubt next week.

Paul Boag: Now, somebody else … You've got a clue for next week of what you can talk about, which is Peter said, "Very interested in your information architecture and why team is ahead of services." So, you could talk about information architecture. That's give you-

Marcus L: What does my notes say? My next one crosstalk 00:18:47

Paul Boag: You haven't planned ahead?

Marcus L: Yes, I have. Well, just the title.

Paul Boag: Oh, right.

Marcus L: Changing the nav 00:18:51 and reduced page numbers, and changing the nav is obviously a change to information architecture.

Paul Boag: There you go.

Marcus L: So, yes, I will be talking about that probably next week.

Paul Boag: Awesome. All right. Well, let's talk about our first sponsor for this show. It's a new one this week. Full Story have been forced out.

It was so funny. When they came to sign up with me, I said, "I can't offer you a whole season," because we had a couple of other sponsors in the mix as well, which is quite nice, I think, to have a bit of a mix. So, no, it's not Envision Studio, says Victor in … That was unpaid. That's terrible, isn't it?

No, it's .tech Domains. We're going to talk about domain names and how finding a domain name absolutely sucks. Either the well known ones are already gone or you end up with a domain that just doesn't really dit what it is you offer. I don't get this, right. Why is it that so many tech companies, tech startups, seem to have domains … I mean, like the one we're on right now, right? We're broadcasting this via Crowdcast. That is the domain Why 'io'? Other than it's short-

Marcus L: Input, output, yeah. That's what I've always thought it meant. Why though? Why?

Paul Boag: It's shit. It's terrible. Anyway, why don't you go with something more relevant like a .tech domain? They've got loads of availability because it's a new domain name, so be great if you're say a developer and you want to create a personal brand name. You're going to find those much easier to get on .tech domain.

Also, it means you don't have to compromise on the domain name you end up picking. For example, if you want to pick X name of the company, if you want to rename Headscape Headspace and have done with it, then you'll know that the .tech domain will be available because it's new, so you can have that quality domain that you really want. Also, obviously, it's very relevant if you're in the tech industry, because it's going to be intuitive, it's going to be descriptive. People are going to remember it easy because, well, you're a tech company, therefore a tech domain makes sense.

You can also, of course, do some imaginative stuff when you've got a word as a domain name. You could have, right, as a descriptive name of the business, or you could have Okay, that might not have been-

Marcus L: I want that.

Paul Boag: Extreme tech, yeah. Oh, God. A shame. But, it means that you can do some good brand positioning type stuff.

So, because it's a new domain name and they're trying to encourage people to do it, they've got this incredible deal which makes it silly not to get a .tech domain. If you use the code BOAG when you checkout on the URL I'm about to give you, you'll get 90% off of a one or five year registration. So, for one year, it means to get a .tech domain is going to cost $4.99. Even Marcus can afford that.

Marcus L: Not after my purchase last week.

Paul Boag: Not after your-

Marcus L: No chance.

Paul Boag: No, is that too much?

Marcus L: Yeah.

Paul Boag: So, five years at $24.99 really would be … That would just break the bank entirely.

Marcus L: No chance.

Paul Boag: Yeah. That's a shame. It's a shame you're going to miss-

Marcus L: I want as well.

Paul Boag: What on earth would you put on an domain?

Marcus L: Do you know what I was thinking? I was going to say, no, I won't say this, but I'm going to say it anyway. I haven't been involved in buying a domain name for getting on for 20 years.

Paul Boag: I don't suppose you have people for that.

Marcus L: Yeah, people. No, we've had no reason to. I just don't have any other websites apart from Headscape. That's not totally true. We've done things like HeadscapeHired 00:23:12 and things like that, kind of specific ones, sub domains, if you like, to the Headscape one. But, I haven't thought, right, I need a name for this new business or whatever, so I haven't done it.

It's a bit like I'm just about to reach 29 years married. I've got no idea what it would be like to be playing the field, so I was making that comparison between-

Paul Boag: That is a very peculiar comparison to make.

Marcus L: Yeah. It is slightly peculiar, but it's true. It's kind of I've got no idea about that, or that.

Paul Boag: Okay. It's very easy. You go to … This isn't for playing the field, by the way.

Marcus L: inaudible 00:23:46. Give them a pint of cider outside the farm gate.

Paul Boag: No, you go to and follow the instructions.

Marcus L: Okay.

Paul Boag: It's not difficult, all right? You'll be fine.

Marcus L: Before we move onto the next thing, I'm going to answer Peter's question now, 'cause I might forget next week. There is a reason why team is ahead of services, and it is quite simply we think that people think who we are-

Paul Boag: We think that people think.

Marcus L: Yeah, okay. We haven't tested this, other than amongst ourselves.

Paul Boag: So, hang on a minute. So, what is it you do? Usability and user research and that kind of stuff, but you haven't tested your own website. The hypocrisy of that.

Marcus L: We use our own expert judgment, Paul. Okay? But, basically, we think that ordering something in who we are, what we do, makes more of a logical step. There's no more thinking behind it than that. That's why team is ahead of services.

Paul Boag: To be honest, most people that go to your website already know what you do.

Marcus L: Yeah.

Paul Boag: Do you know what I mean? You're a web design and development agency, they're going to see that from the homepage. Oh, I wonder what they might do, you know?

Marcus L: Yeah.

Paul Boag: While it's the people that kind of-

Marcus L: Painting and decorating.

Paul Boag: Yeah. It's the people that make the difference, isn't it?

Marcus L: Kind of. Anyway. Yes, Paul, I'll let you talk.

Paul Boag: Yes. So, this week, we're going to be talking about how to make the choices that people have to make on our websites feel easier and more effortless, and we're going to start with choice paralysis, which is a huge deal for many users on many websites, especially commerce sites, but it's also a problem even with things like … The obvious ones is you've got a lot of different products, how do I pick which product I want to. So, if you're on Amazon or a big e-commerce retailer, that's a problem.

Marcus L: Yes, 57 pages of this.

Paul Boag: Exactly.

Marcus L: Yeah.

Paul Boag: But, even if you don't offer many products, you can still find your user suffering from choice paralysis because of things like navigation, too many items in navigation to try and work out which one they want to select, or you can have even down to like product categorization. If you maybe have a lot of stuff categorized in a lot of different areas, it's a problem. It's a problem for me on my blog, because I've got 13 years worth of blog posts, and you might find half a dozen on a very similar subject to one another.

So, choice paralysis is a big thing. It's also a real thing. What I mean by that is, it's something that a lot of clients kind of go, "Oh, well it's not that important," but it really is, and you can prove it using something called Hick's law. If you do a Wikipedia search on Hick's law, you'll come up with it very quickly, and I'll probably put a thing in the show notes if I can be arsed to go to Wikipedia. Essentially, there is a predictable relationship between the number of options that you present a user and the time it's going to take them to make a selection between those various options. It's kind of fairly obvious, but it is very much worth emphasizing, especially when you've got to prove it to a client.

Aw, look at that. Michelle's done the link for me so I don't have to make the effort.

Marcus L: Aw.

Paul Boag: Not that I'm looking at the chat room window. Yeah, seeing it has thrown me.

Marcus L: That threw you, didn't it?

Paul Boag: Yeah. so, we've got Hick's law that kind of proves it, but if you need a more tangible example, obviously the very famous example is the jam example. This is about-

Marcus L: Supermarkets.

Paul Boag: Exactly.

Marcus L: Yeah.

Paul Boag: A group of researchers decided to do a research project in a grocery store in California. On some days they had a stall set up which sold six varieties of jams, and on other days they had a stall set up which sold 24 varieties of jam. On the days when they sold 24 varieties of jam, they saw a conversion rate of about 4%. When they limited that number to only six varieties of jams, that jumped to 31% in conversion rate. That is how big a deal choice paralysis can be, all right?

But, choice paralysis is a little bit more complicated than it first appears. There's a couple of additional things to say about it. First of all, Hick's law doesn't take into account-

Marcus L: Sorry. Kat spent five minutes in the jam aisle in Tescos yesterday. Cool.

Paul Boag: There you go. See? crosstalk 00:29:03.

Marcus L: See, my question is, but what about if six is too many? What if you actually should only be providing … What's the optimal number of choices I suppose is what I'm trying to say.

Paul Boag: I think it does … You don't know. You would have to test and see. In that research test, they took two fairly extreme points … Ben is now saying, "It's a very sticky situation." That is terrible, Ben. That is terrible.

So, it kinds of depends on the extremes, doesn't it? You would have to … How do I get-

Marcus L: And again. And again.

Paul Boag: How do I get rid of the chat?

Marcus L: You just don't look at it. It's my job to look at it, not you.

Paul Boag: I'm putting my hand over it. I'll put the microphone in front of it, there we go. I'm going to sit exactly here, so I cannot see now.

Marcus L: There you go.

Paul Boag: They'll just write rude things about me, that's the trouble. So, yes-

Marcus L: They're loving you to bits, Paul.

Paul Boag: I'm sure they are. So, yeah, you would just test with a smaller number. What if we tried four, what if we tried eight, etc. But, what Hick's law doesn't take into account is that, on a website in particular, people just reach a point of, yes, it's taking them longer to make a decision, so they get to a point where they just give up entirely and walk away. That's what the grocery store example shows.

Marcus L: Yep.

Paul Boag: You can't rely on people to keep persevering to the point where they will make a decision. But, the other little complexity in here is about making those choices distinct from one another. It's okay to have more choices, if those choices are very, very obviously distinct from one another, okay?

So, let me give you an example. Well, I'll give you an example of how even choosing between two options could be a problem. If you take the example of Wikipedia. For years Wikipedia used to have a search box on it. I think I told this story recently. I can't remember what I say where.

Marcus L: It's all right. I'm just reading about marmalade now. I can't believe you don't like marmalade. It's one of the most amazing things on the planet.

Paul Boag: Somebody doesn't like marmalade? Actually, what am I talking about? I don't really like marmalade very much.

Marcus L: Language, Paul.

Paul Boag: I don't like … See, marmalade is kind of orangey 00:31:28, lemony, citrusy 00:31:28, isn't it? It's quite a sharp-

Marcus L: Yeah. crosstalk 00:31:30.

Paul Boag: inaudible 00:31:32. I'm giving up.

Marcus L: More visual humor please, especially for the podcast. I'm actually interested in this, Paul … vaguely. Come on, get on with it.

Paul Boag: Okay. So, Wikipedia used to have a search box, and beside that search box it had two buttons. It had a go button and a search button.

Marcus L: Yes, and people inaudible 00:31:55 what do I do?

Paul Boag: Exactly. So, even two choices can cause a problem if they're very, very similar.

It's like when Steve Jobs came back to Apple, they had this enormous range of products, and nobody quite knew which product to go for. So, the first thing Steve Jobs did was create that quadrant of pro consumer, laptop, desktop, and he had one product in each. Very distinct, very obvious choices, which is … It's loads clearer, people know where they stand.

Of course, this is all well and good, but you don't actually always have the ability to control the number of options. As web designers, we only have limited power, and we can't suddenly turn round to a client and say, "You have to dump half your products."

So, there are a couple of things that you can do to help deal with it. One is that you can break things down into stages. If someone's making a complex decision like buying a television, where do you go for an OLED screen or LCD, how big a screen do you need, does it need to be a smart TV, all of these kinds of different things. You can actually guide people through that choice by breaking it down into a series of stages.

Equally, with categories, you're almost better having a smaller number of top level categories and then having subcategories under it, which is effectively guiding someone to the point of a decision. Then the other thing you could do is chunk stuff. So, you can basically show things in groups, like on your credit card. If you look at your credit card, the number is split into four sets of four because it's easier for us to process that limited amount of information in one go.

Marcus L: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Paul Boag: Then, obviously, you can also hide things. If you take navigation. Let's say you've got 20 different categories of products, you can choose to just show the top four categories of products, the bestsellers, which probably accounts for something like 80% of your sales anyway, and then hide the remaining categories under a 'more' link, or something like that.

So, all these kinds of things work really well. The other thing that you could do is you can encourage people to make faster decisions, because … This is a weird one when it comes to choice paralysis. The longer that we have to think about our decision, the more hesitant we become about that decision, the less likely we are to be happy with the decision that we've made, and so we tend to get stuck. We all have had that feeling, haven't we, of like you've kind of overthought it, and you end up being not happy with the decision you make because you've thought about it too much. crosstalk 00:34:43

Marcus L: Probably there was no decision you would be happy with in that situation.

Paul Boag: Yeah, 'cause you thought about it for too long.

Marcus L: Yep.

Paul Boag: So, we can encourage people to make faster decisions. Now, there are manipulative ways that we can do that, like 'limited time only'-

Marcus L: Doesn't work.

Paul Boag: But, better ways of doing it, that don't make people feel manipulated, is things like making the price a no-brainer or offering a really good return policy, or indeed anything that removes the risk from the decision. Then you can just make a decision, and it's not the end of the world if you make a wrong one. All right?

The final thing you can do is make the decision for people, or at least kind of start them down that road. This is where good defaults come in. For example, do things like make sure that … Let's say you were going to a travel site again. I was badmouthing travel sites last time, now I'm going to badmouth them again. So, you could go to a travel-

Marcus L: Easy targets they are.

Paul Boag: Yeah, exactly. You go to a travel site, you have to say how many people are going to fly. Well, don't force people to fill that in. Fill it in with a value. If you know 80% of the people that fly with you, there's two people, then put two people in by default. Even with date ranges, you could go, well, most people book two months in advance and fly for a week, so we'll put that in as the default and people can change that if they want.

There are all kinds of ways of removing decisions from people, or at least recommending it. Things like putting the bestselling product in each category, upfront, on the homepage. Amazon do this, don't they? They have Amazon's Choice when you search on a particular thing, which … Who knows what that algorithm's based on, but at least they're giving you some kind of guidance if you don't know or don't care.

You look like you were going to say something, Marcus.

Marcus L: No, I was just saying I was blind … I am blind to their recommendations, Amazon's recommend … I don't see them at all. I don't even look at them. I go straight to the thing below.

Paul Boag: Lies.

Marcus L: No, not lies.

Paul Boag: Lies. They affect your-

Marcus L: No. Amazon, if you want to know … You can consider me a user tester. You could get rid of that, based on one person.

Paul Boag: Yeah. But, here's the thing, is you think you do, but statistically you don't.

Marcus L: No, no, Paul. It's true.

Paul Boag: Okay. I'm not going to argue with you. You live in your little fantasy world, that's fine by me.

So, there you go. There's a little bit about dealing with choice paralysis. Just to recap that for you, it's make your choices distinct, reduce the number of choices you're showing at user any one time, break it down into stages or chunks, encourage fast decisions, make good recommendations and set good defaults.

Marcus L: I thought of a thing when it did persuade me.

Paul Boag: What's that?

Marcus L: They put up some orange gin, gin made with Seville oranges, and I bought that.

Paul Boag: There, see.

Marcus L: I didn't know I wanted to buy it, but the fact that it came up at the top made me go, "Ooh, I'll have that one," instead of whatever I was looking for. So, you're right.

Paul Boag: And it is very different. When you go in and you know specifically what you want, it's fine. You're not going to suffer from choice paralysis in those kinds of situations. It's when you don't know what you want that you've got a problem, isn't it?

Marcus L: Yeah.

Paul Boag: So, let's talk about our second sponsor today, which is obviously Balsamiq. Earlier I was talking about Envision, wasn't I-

Marcus L: You were.

Paul Boag: … and how much I really enjoy using Envision, an amazingly powerful tool that I found incredibly easy to pick up and start working with. But, it's not something you would want to hand to a client and say, "Here, mock up your ideas in this." Easy though I found it, I don't think a client would, because it doesn't work in that kind of way.

Also, something like Envision, that's for high-fidelity prototypes, dealing with animation and transitions and that kind of stuff. It's not for exploring quick and dirty ideas with stakeholders, and that was is what Balsamiq is for. So, if you want something where you can just sit in a meeting, brainstorm some stuff with a client, or hand it to a client and say, "Show me what it is that you've got in your head," then Balsamiq is the way to go.

You can get a 30 day free trial, and also, after your 30 days, you can get three months for free of their Balsamiq Cloud product if you use the code BOAGWORLD alongside entering your billing information after you get a free account. So, try it out for 30 days. If you think you like it, sign up. But, you won't have to pay for three months because you can use the code BOAGWORLD. You can get that by going to

I think that about covers that.

Marcus L: Cool.

Paul Boag: Right. So, we've-

Marcus L: What's next, Paul?

Paul Boag: We've talked about choice paralysis, but the other thing that helps people make a decision … Now, this is going to be quite an interesting one, is about how to make things feel easy. We often talk about how to make things actually be easy, but there is another element here, which is how you make things feel easy. They're two slightly different things.

This is maybe where I would challenge a little bit the route that you've gone down with the Headscape site, right?

Marcus L: Okay.

Paul Boag: Now, this is a fine line to walk actually, and I don't think you've got a problem here. I'll explain why. For me, we want to make things feel easy and intuitive. I think we're all agreed on that, right?

Marcus L: Yes. Absolutely.

Paul Boag: So, one of the things that reduces cognitive load, which is the primary reason why things feel hard, is the mood we're in. Okay? Our mood-

Marcus L: You were in a mood earlier this week, weren't you, Paul?

Paul Boag: I was, actually, yes. I was having a stroppy moment.

Marcus L: What was that all about then?

Paul Boag: I don't know. You've got no emotional range, have you, Marcus? You just kind of plod along quite happily in the middle.

Marcus L: Happy, happy, happy, all the time.

Paul Boag: You're an unnatural freak of nature, Marcus, and I've got no time for you.

Marcus L: Just, it's mind over matter, Paul.

Paul Boag: I'd just had a bad day.

Marcus L: That's all it is.

Paul Boag: It's not mind over matter. You're just unnaturally, irritatingly level headed and balanced. You are not representative of humanity as a whole. Most people have bad days.

Marcus L: Do they?

Paul Boag: Yes. See, the chat room agrees with me. Nobody's posted anything, but-

Marcus L: Nothing at all in there, nothing.

Paul Boag: Nobody on the audio knows that. So, your mood-

Marcus L: So, yes. So, your mood affects how you use a website?

Paul Boag: Yes, absolutely. If you're in a bad mood, you're stroppy as hell at a website, you're more irritable, you give it less time, you give it less attention. It's bad, correct?

Marcus L: Oh, dear. No comment there, is there?

Paul Boag: Kat has just posted to the chat room she's scared that I will get snippy with her again, or with everybody again. It is true, I did threaten to ban a large number of people from the Slack channel when I had a bad day, but that's what happens if you join a dictatorship. You know, your choice to join the Slack channel, and I've always made it very clear my rules or the highway. No, that's not it. My way or the highway. Oh, God. That's as bad as make like a tree and leave, isn't it, from … What was that? Back to the Future.

Marcus L: Yeah.

Paul Boag: Anyway. So, mood is important. Now, a lot of the things about people's moods we can't control. If you're like me and you wake up and have a bad day, no amount of a website trying to make me happy is going to help. In fact, it's probably going to irritate me more. But, that said, our copy that we write on websites can influence people's moods, it can strike the right tone or it can undermine the tone.

So, we really need to think carefully about the tone and voice on our website. That said, that's not an excuse for writing lots of verbose copy, because obviously the more copy you create, the more copy people have got to read, and therefore the more cognitive load you're creating that way. So, that's why I think Headscape site is fine with this very minimalistic approach to it, but if it was going to have copy, it needed to think heavily about the choices of words that it used and how it used things.

Now, the most obvious example of putting people in a good mood is to use a bit of humor on your website. This is where I come and I defend some of the copy that we had on the old site. That, actually, I do think it added a lightness to the site, it added an approachability and it added a friendliness. But, that has to be used with care. For example, I don't necessarily think a 404 page, when things have gone wrong, is a particularly good time to start using humor. Although I seem to be in a minority thinking that. Every flippin' 404 page on the planet always has some bad Star Wars pun on it about "This isn't the page you're looking for".

But, anyway. We can use a bit of humor, absolutely fine. Now, you might think, oh, we're too grown up an organization to use humor, we're too sensible. If the CIA's first Tweet can be "We can neither confirm nor deny this is our Twitter channel", then you can use humor. If the CIA can use humor, you can too. That said, it's not always appropriate. If, for example, you're running a funeral home, you might not want to use humor on your website. Might not be the best idea. But, what you can use, if you're a funeral home, is empathy. I think that is the key to putting people in a good mood. It's not about using humor, it's not about having a particular tone of voice, it's about empathizing with your audience and where they're currently at. I think that's what actually the new Headscape site does well. It empathizes with users. It knows they don't want to read a load of copy, they basically want some key information for their due diligence and then they want to pick up the phone and talk to you.

Marcus L: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Paul's asking in the chat room, "Being that copy light, will it give you SEO issues?"

Paul Boag: Yes. Yes, it will.

Marcus L: Dunno.

Paul Boag: It will. But, I don't think-

Marcus L: It's not like we've got no copy on the site. We've just removed stuff that was not providing anything useful.

Paul Boag: Yeah. It will still create SEO issues for you, Marcus, but I would argue … I'll put two arguments on that. One is that, if you blogged-

Marcus L: Which we do … sometimes.

Paul Boag: … then you would get SEO traffic from that.

Marcus L: And we do.

Paul Boag: Also, I don't think … That's not how people choose … You don't want leads from, oh, I randomly Googled you.

Marcus L: You get one every 10 years that might turn into business.

Paul Boag: Yeah. It's not the best way of winning business. It's the lowest quality leads I ever receive. You want it from other ways. Anyway. But, yes, he's got a good point. It does create issues.

So, all of this is to say that, basically, you need to use … Sorry, I've now completely stopped trying to work out what Ben is talking about. No. Don't get distracted. I'm lining up the microphone in front of the chat window again.

So, all of this is to basically say empathize, have a voice and tone, think about your voice and tone. I'm amazed at how many organizations don't even consider that kind of thing. But, of course, that's not the only way to make people feel more positively about your site. Make it beautiful. Design it. Give attention to that design.

Marcus L: Oh, yes.

Paul Boag: That's because of something called the Halo Effect. The Halo Effect is the reason why attractive people are listened to more. That is scientifically proven, that attractive people are listened to more and they're trusted more, and it's because of the Halo Effect. We take one unrelated element and tie it to another unrelated element. If somebody is good looking, therefore they must be more trustworthy. The two don't correlate in any way whatsoever, but we believe they do in our heads.

Marcus L: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Paul Boag: So, the same is true with the design. If somebody sees a gorgeous design, it feels easier to use. It's not necessarily any correlation between the two whatsoever, but it will feel like that. That's why, as well as making a design look gorgeous, you could introduce things like design delighters as well, those little, oh, that's clever moments. Because those, oh, that's clever moments puts people in a good mood, and it has a positive impact on them.

Marcus L: Scroll to the footer on the new Headscape site.

Paul Boag: Oh. Yeah, okay.

Marcus L: Roll over the H.

Paul Boag: You've just given away the-

Marcus L: The delighter.

Paul Boag: … the design delighter.

Marcus L: Yeah, to 27 people. Oh, no, there's more than that listening. Oh, well.

Paul Boag: Yeah, you … Doh. They're supposed to discover those things for themselves, Marcus. Anyway.

Then the other thing, when it comes to making things feel easier, another psychological thing is to make it feel fast, and that's another good thing that the Headscape site does now. It feels much snappier than the old one. Hoorah.

Marcus L: Oh, the old one was appalling. It was like, urgh 00:48:53.

Paul Boag: It was. It was really, really bad. So, yes. Basically, if you make it fast, it makes an enormous difference. According to Bing … When you say the words "according to Bing", why does it immediately feel untrustworthy? I don't know why. It's something about the word "Bing", isn't it? Bing.

Marcus L: Bing, Bing, Bing, Bing, Bing.

Paul Boag: But, according to research done by Microsoft … That sounds better, doesn't it? A two second delay in load time will have a 4.3% loss in revenue per visitor, a 3.75% reduction in clicks, and a 1.8% drop off in queries. So, it has a big difference. Delays in load time make an enormous difference, and we need to take them seriously.

So, how do you make a website run faster? Well, that's a whole show in itself, but it includes things like reducing image size. Use a CDM to deliver your images. I use something called,, in order to serve my images up much faster. Now I understand why they picked the name they did. Sorry … It had never occurred to me that the name represents what they did. Anyway. So, reduce your image size. If you use something like Sirv, you can just throw a massive image at them and it will sort it all out for you. Limit the number of web fonts you use. Designers get carried away with their web fonts, and that adds a lot to is. Optimize your CSS and Java script, and then use a content delivery network, something like Cloudflare, for example, which is another tool that I use.

So, yeah, a little bit about how to make things feel easier. The performance one is probably the biggest of all of those. It makes enormous difference to how easy a site feels, but don't forget things like the Halo Effect as well, and just try to put people in a good mood.

All right. I think that about wraps up this show …

Marcus L: Yay.

Paul Boag: … pretty much. Do you have a joke for us?

Marcus L: I do. I'm going to use one of the ones Paul put onto the Boag World Slack channel earlier on today, Paul Edwards.

Paul Boag: This isn't me. This is Paul some-

Marcus L: No. Edwards.

Paul Boag: Right.

Marcus L: Okay. Kat said that I had to read it out, so I'm going to read it out.

Paul Boag: Okay.

Marcus L: I've got two, but we'll just do one of them. A lorry load of tortoises crashed into a train load of terrapins. What a turtle disaster.

Paul Boag: Well, I have to say, from my … As a son of a naturalist, that joke doesn't work, because a turtle and a terrapin and a tortoise are completely different things. A turtle-

Marcus L: No one cares. No one cares.

Paul Boag: A turtle doesn't include both terrapins and tortoises. I'm sorry. Jokes need to work.

Marcus L: It did work.

Paul Boag: Okay. Well, just 'cause a few idiots in the chat room laugh at it … They're only laughing out of politeness anyway.

Anyway. So, as you might have gathered now, and as I explained to somebody in the chat room just before we started recording, this entire season is basically one massive advert for my masterclass. So, please go and buy it. It's totally overpriced, and there are better sources of information out there, but buy it anyway by going to

inaudible 00:52:41 reverse psychology there, Marcus. That's the kind of insightful thing you learn by doing my course.

Marcus L: If you did the course, you'd understand that much better, wouldn't you? You'd be able to apply that to your actual work and everything.

Paul Boag: Exactly. So, you know, its profound. All right. I think that about wraps it up for this week, doesn't it?

Marcus L: Yeah.

Paul Boag: What are we doing next week? What's the score on next week? Why am I asking you? You don't know.

Marcus L: Part three of the Headscape thought for the day.

Paul Boag: About information architecture?

Marcus L: Yeah. I might try and think of something different though in between, do an in betweeny of some sort.

Paul Boag: Just in order to drag it out even longer.

Marcus L: No, just something completely different. We'll see.

Paul Boag: Oh, I see. Other than talking about the Headscape site.

Marcus L: Yeah. Maybe.

Paul Boag: We're also going to be talking about positioning your offering in a positive light and the dangers of getting manipulative. we're going to get into dark patterns.

Marcus L: How exciting.

Paul Boag: Because it really gets on my nerves. Not dark patterns, that obviously gets on my nerves, but the thing that really inaudible 00:53:44, whenever you read an article about you shouldn't do dark patterns, basically the argument boils down to dark patterns, they're a bit naughty aren't they? Bad people use them, or the word "unethical" comes up a lot. Nobody ever thinks they're being unethical. Nobody ever … That's not an argument. You need to put forward a business argument about why dark patterns are not a good idea, not just, "Ooh, you shouldn't do that. It's very naughty." So, that's what I'm going to get into next week.

Marcus L: Okay. Good.

Paul Boag: Right. That about wraps up this week's show. Thank you very much for listening, and join us again next week when the room will be well behaved and much more respectful. Notice that we started off this show with 26 people listening. We end it with 15. Thank you very much. I think that says it all, and goodbye.

Marcus L: They had to go back to work, or go home from work. inaudible 00:54:45.

Paul Boag: Bye. Bye.

Thanks to yayha from Shutterstock for allowing me to use this image.