Keep it Simple, Stupid: Easing the Strain of Decision-overload in an Ever Complex World

What was the last decision you made? Not necessarily a big, conscious decision, but the last point in time that you had to decide something—anything. Even if you were unaware of it, you probably made your most recent decision less than five minutes ago. You might have read the title of this article and decided it was worth your while to keep reading. You might have taken a break from a long day at work and decided to check Facebook, then decided it was a good idea to read the status update of an old friend from high school, and after that decided to watch the ridiculously delicious-looking food video your aunt just posted. In turn, that video made you hungry, and you had to choose to resist temptation and not reach for that Milky Way, leftover from Halloween, in your top drawer.

Without acknowledging it, you’ve made up you mind countless times in minutes. Studies have shown that the average adult makes over 35,000 decisions in a day. What’s even more astonishing is what happens to the brain after it makes several decisions in a short amount of time.

The more decisions you make, the more prone you are to experience what’s known as decision fatigue. Every decision you make, whether conscious or subconscious, takes up some of your brain’s daily energy; meaning, that as you go throughout your day, the choices you make will have less and less thought contributed to them, sometimes lending no reason to them at all. If you made an unwise decision recently, it might not have been because you lack wisdom, but because your brain was tired and couldn’t accurately assess the pros and cons of a situation.

In today’s world, there’s more and more complexity in the market. As more options are added, more decisions have to be made. People don’t always know where to turn, and it’s not uncommon for marketing to be the final deciding factor for consumers, even if the best-marketed product is not the best solution for their needs.

When it comes to product design, people don’t always want all the bells and whistles—they want something they can use and enjoy. It all boils down to function and pleasure. If you want a product that’s going to cater to consumers outside of the early-adopting, tech-savvy community of Silicon Valley, then keep it simple and easy to use. Creating something that the “everyday man” can use will allow your product to stand out in a sea of complexity and detail overload.

Take a look at Apple, one of the leading tech companies in the world. Though initially, their products may be a little overwhelming to a first-time user, once you’ve mastered one of their products, it’s easy to figure out the rest. Apple’s design is universal and extends across all of their products. Each product has a similar look and technological design, making navigation and decisions easy for the consumer. There are only a handful of colors and variations to choose from, which allows buyers to quickly and easily decide what version they’d like to purchase.

While people tend to love variety, they can be indecisive and unsure of what they want. Have you ever tried to pick out a paint color at the hardware store and stood in front of the swatches for far too long? Too many choices can be overwhelming and cause consumers to put off a purchase in fear that they’re making the wrong decision. There’s no confidence because there are too many options. By creating a product that’s simple, yet well designed, you’re giving the consumer the freedom and ease of choice, without the burden of too many decisions.

If you’re planning on (or are currently in the process of) designing a product, you’ll have more success if you err on the side of simplicity. Put away the notion that “more is better” and stick with the “less is more” approach. Your consumers will thank you. We already have enough to think about; let your product be one that allows for ease and confidence in an ever-growing world of complexity.

Written by Elizabeth Lambert, Lead Copywriter