Less can be more, but what should there be less of?

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Often when we design our user interfaces, especially on mobile devices, we tend to think in terms of “taps”.

How many taps will it take the user to get from where they are to where they want to go (or we want them to go)? If it’s too many taps, if it’s too cumbersome, if there’s too much drill down, it’s frowned upon.

While there is some logic to this – people want to get to what they want to get to, as quickly and easily and distraction-free as possible – is it always the case?

Kristof Orts writes:

A few weeks ago we set out to A/B test designs for our mobile ecommerce app. Version A, the first version, has all the categories and subcategories available as a carousel on the landing screen. Making it easy for the user to find what they are looking for right away, eliminating the amount of steps and providing an overview of all the available options.

Version B forces you to first select the category and then the subcategory, guiding you through the funnel. This approach gives our users an extra step to take first, but narrowing down the options and choices they have to make.

The result was surprising. Version B performed much better and enabled our users to decide much faster and not get lost in a sea of options. This shows that Hick’s theory can be applied here and that even though this means adding an extra step, the decision is easier to make.

Version A had fewer taps, less drill-down, and less “tactile work” involved to get at the information.

But there was just too much information presented!

Version B simplified the presentation to the user. Fewer choices, less informational overload/clutter, but more taps to get at what you want. But it was more successful because the presentation was more consumable.

So yes, sometimes we need less but it’s important to understand just what we need less of, and that sometimes, a little more could lead to something better.

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