Hick’s Law is a very famous principle for UX designers and it’s such a straightforward rule, everybody has heard of it at least once. Hick’s Law states that the time it takes to make a decision is proportional to the number/complexity of choices available to the user. If the number of choices increase, then the time that it takes to choose will also increase logarithmically.
Let’s take a look at some examples of designs with Hick’s Law in mind.
Here is Craigslist. Craigslist is an American advertising website that is “devoted to jobs, housing, for sale, items wanted, services, community service, gigs, résumés, and discussion forums.” (Wikipedia) Back when I lived in America, craigslist was a sort of meme? I guess, for people who wanted to sell or promote things. When you take a look at this long list, you automatically cringe at the amount of information and layout. One thing to compliment is that craigslist did a good job in separating the list ( a little bit ) into categories, but it still isn’t enough. It would have been better for craigslist to not show the long list of options that it has, but rather hide them and only show them by expanding when the user clicks on an option. It would also be a better option to color code the sections. There is too much blue popping out of the web page and it makes reading the words much more burdensome
A good example of web design that took Hick’s Law into proper consideration is Amazon’s website.
This is amazon’s user interface design for its web site.
If you toggle down the menu, you are given a list of categories to choose from.
The rest of the sub categories are hidden from the user’s view.
Amazon deliberately chose to categorize the menu so that the user wouldn’t be exposed to so much information at once, thus causing confusion.
Once you choose a category, the user can choose from the su-categories listed to the side.
However, Hick’s Law shouldn’t always be treated as the golden rule every UX designer should follow. Hick’s Law should not be used when the process requires complex decision making such as extensive reading and researching. I also think that the level of complexity and given choices should depend on the targeted audience.
One good example would be Adobe Photoshop and Photoshop Elements.
(Although this is an old image of Adobe Photoshop [left] and Adobe Photoshop Elements [right].. please bear with me.. I couldn’t find a good image)
Photoshop is the well renowned photo editor that allows users to tweak their image the way they want to. Photoshop Elements is the simplified version of photoshop. Although its options are very limited compared to photoshop, it allows users to create and edit their photos much simpler and quicker.
Photoshop Elements is much easier than photoshop to use and the entry barrier is much lower. Does that mean Photoshop should also simplify its options and tools just so that users can have that low entry barrier like Elements? The answer, obviously, is no. Photoshop has more options so that users and designers can have more control over what they want to edit. If you strip away options, you are also stripping the user away from the control that they want.
In a sense, Adobe was smart to create a side platform for users who have a hard time manipulating Photoshop by giving them an option with smaller choices.
So what would be a good time and good example of Hick’s Law?
I think the best usage of Hick’s Law would be when the information would be better organized when it is categorized. It would also be better if the information can be minimized to no more than 5 things (according to uxplanet.org)