Choice is powerful. Therefore, it should be used responsibly.

Ever hear of the phrase “decision fatigue?” Rumor has it, it’s what keeps Mark Zuckerberg in a continuous array of gray sweatshirts. Moreover, it’s the statement behind Steve Jobs’ iconic black turtleneck.

That statement is: My decisions matter. I’m saving them for when they count.

What decisions matter on your website?

We can prevent decision fatigue for your website visitors by limiting the number of decisions they need to make. How?

First, we take a look at the goals you’ve identified for your website. These are the natural choices your visitors need to make. Usually, they amount to, “Do I sign up or not?” or “Do I buy or not?”

Remove options when they really don’t matter.

Now that you’ve identified the major decisions your website visitors are tasked with, you can reduce the clutter. How? Let’s look at an example:

Screenshot of the original search form on this website. There was a category dropdown and a search field, both hidden by a toggle button.
Originally, blog posts, services and projects were filterable by either selecting a category or directly searching for a term. This left the decision up to visitors to choose how they want to find the information they are looking for.

On my own website, I allow visitors to filter content when on the Blog, Services or Projects pages. Originally, the option of how to filter the content was left up to visitors to decide.

The trouble with decision fatigue however, is that it does not provide freedom and flexibility. Conversely, it can create confusion, misunderstanding and just plain paralysis.

By removing options, it is now much clearer how to find the blog post, service or project.

During a monthly maintenance cycle, I simplified the filter on these pages. I recognize—especially as this website grows and I add more content—that visitors will need to do more than simply browse to find the information they need. In addition, I also recognize that providing a simple option instead of multiple encourages more engagement and increases the likelihood that they will take advantage of the search.

Limiting choices focuses your visitor’s decision-making power where it matters most: Conversion time.

Your website’s aim is to provide the information visitors are looking for with an engaging user experience. In other words, your information, services and solutions should be as easy to find as possible. Once visitors find them, you leave the choice to engage further—or not—up to them.

This approach does mean you as the website owner will need to decide what information is most important to your visitors. A common design pattern that attempts to avoid this is the rotating banner. Making information easy to find for your visitors is not the same thing as overwhelming them with everything at once.

Instead, take a look at your audience and their interests. Provide the most sought-after information in the most prominent places (like the homepage). Better yet, personalize content based on how visitors arrive at your website.

To sum up, anticipating your visitors’ needs ensures they are ready when faced with the ultimate decision on your website: Buy or not buy.