How to design interfaces for choice: Hick-Hyman law and classification

In a market dominated by the long tail model (Anderson), with an increasing variety of products and information, we have constantly to choose among a large number of options, not only in the web but also in the physical world. If, on one hand, this availability is a richness we wouldn’t renounce to, it is also true that the excess of choice often generates stress, and in turn, non-choice or non-purchase. It is the so-called paradox of choice (Schwartz).

Some principles, however, show that the time and stress of choice does not depend so much on the number of options available, but overall on the way the choices are organized and presented. The paradox of choice is therefore a matter of quality rather than quantity.

In particular, a comparison of Hick-Hyman law and the Helpful sequence canon by Ranganathan allows to figure out some guidelines to improve the choice in menus, catalogs and interfaces in general, by acting on the information architecture of the choices themselves.

Talk at International UDC Seminar 2013, Classification & Visualization: interfaces to knowledge, The Hague, 24-25 October 2013.

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Rosati L. (2013). How to design interfaces for choice: Hick-Hyman law and classification for information architecture. In Slavic A., Akdag Salah A. & Davies S. (Eds.) Classification and visualization: interfaces to knowledge: proceedings of the International UDC Seminar, 24-25 October 2013, The Hague, The Netherlands. Würzburg: Ergon Verlag, pp. 125-138.