Myth #15: Users make optimal choices

In an ideal world, users would scan through your entire page to find the very piece of information they’re looking for, but research shows this is not the case. Usability tests prove that people tend to choose the first somewhat reasonable choice that catches their eyes.

That is, once they come across a link whose label refers even a little to what they’ve come for, they’ll click it. This is due to their experience that guessing wrong and hitting the back button is still more efficient than reading a whole page to find an exact match.

This behaviour, known as satisficing, is a well-known decision-making strategy in psychology.


How users make decisions on the web:

  • Steve Krug discusses in Don’t make me think that instead of making optimal choices on web sites, users usually just ‘guess’ because they find it fun, and in addition, there is no penalty for guessing wrong
  • In Smashing Magazine’s 30 Usability Issues to Be Aware of, Vitaly Friedman claims that users “permanently scan for quick’n’dirty-solutions which are good enough”
  • According to Meta4Creations, “users will not always make the best choice, they will generally make the easiest one”