Article

Jill Grozalsky
Jill Grozalsky 16 March 2018

Testing: A Solution to Overcoming Choice Paralysis

Choice paralysis (also commonly referred to as the paradox of choice) is based on the work of psychologist Barry Schwartz who stated that the more choices we have, the less likely we are to take action, and also less likely to be satisfied with our decision. We see choice paralysis present itself across websites all the time, so there's got to be a way to overcome choice paralysis. Enter: Testing!

This is going to sound odd and I am slightly embarrassed to admit this, but whenever I go to a new website I always give it a quick scan for  personalization and optimization opportunities. I am always interested to see if there I can spot ‘personalized for me’ content and if companies are helping me narrow down my choices or the information I am receiving. What I have found, not surprisingly, is that a lot of websites use the old ‘spray and pray’ approach to content creating a feeling of being overwhelmed with the sheer amount of content and information that is presented, ultimately, causing myself - and other visitors - to face choice paralysis.

Choice paralysis (also commonly referred to as the paradox of choice) is based on the work of psychologist Barry Schwartz who stated that the more choices we have, the less likely we are to take action, and also less likely to be satisfied with our decision.

While choice paralysis can affect us in all facets of our lives, when I think about choice paralysis it’s in terms of website content and user experience.

We see choice paralysis present itself across websites all the time. Think about it. Recent trends in website design showcase hero carousels with multiple sliders that contain content for different lines of business because everyone wants to be front and center.  Sites also frequently have featured resources or featured articles that present 3+ options to users. Side callouts are cluttered with CTAs and supporting content.

So while organizations/brands will say they are creating and delivering content that is focused on the end user, let’s be honest, content tends to be selfish. Websites (and specifically home pages), while they often have good intentions, are really just a presentation of internal compromise. Now the question stands, how do we “cure” choice paralysis?

Because of internal sensitivities and the investment that has already been made in content/UX to date, you must show the impact that this overload is having on the user journey, and ultimately business objectives with … DATA. Here are a few ways to evaluate whether or not your users are facing choice paralysis on your website:

  • Average Time on Page: Marketers often consider time on page or session duration strong engagement metrics, but if a page doesn’t feature a tool or resource to engage with, then a high time on page might be a red flag. See where average time on page is high and evaluate whether or not the amount of time spent on a particular page makes sense, or if it might be causing choice paralysis for users and they are just continuously scanning and evaluating what to do next.
     
  • Path to Conversion Analysis: Think about the primary and micro conversions on your site. Using Google’s behavior flow (or something similar like Path Analyzer in Sitecore) see how users are moving through the site and whether or not they are converting. If you have a “contact page” or “request a demo” page that isn’t highly trafficked, users may be facing too many choices on their way to conversion.
     
  • When in Doubt, Test it Out: If you have a personalization/testing/optimization platform in your martech stack, then it’s time to put that bad boy to use. To understand if users are paralyzed by too many options you will want to test page layouts. Pick a page (perhaps one you identified through the two data points above) and see if there’s a way to update the layout to remove choices. Test if featuring one resource as opposed to three helps with downloads. Maybe one hero image increases clicks deeper into the site experience? Does removing secondary calls-to-action from sidebars drive an increase in your primary conversion. By developing a hypothesis and implementing tests to measure conversions, you will be able to determine and prove to others whether or not your site is plagued by too many choices.

While these are just a few ways to see if you’ve caught a case of “too many choices”, the ultimate cure for choice paralysis is personalization. When you know your users, what they are looking for, how they have engaged in past interactions, you no longer need to bombard them with content. Personalization will allow you to achieve the ultimate marketer’s dream: Delivering the right content, at the right time through the right channel … and in the right context.

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