A few years ago, I had the excellent opportunity of interviewing Professor Sheena Iyengar. Ms. Iyengar is S.T. Lee Professor of Business in the Management Division at Columbia Business School and the Director of the Global Leadership Matrix initiative. She is also the author of the best selling book “The Art of Choosing” that is a remarkable study on choices.
The interview with Professor Iyengar dispersed several revelations surrounding the benefits and drawbacks of choice. One of the most remarkable of those revelations for me was the main drawback of being presented with a myriad of choices.
In this more is better society we have been subconsciously programmed to believe that more is better. Well too much of anything turns out to be not so good for us when we are confronted with making a selection from a myriad of choices.
The result of several independent studies also concur with Professor Iyenga’s finding of The more choice you offer, the less people will take you up on it.
Here is how one study was conducted.
Researchers set up a jam-tasting stall in a posh supermarket in California. Sometimes they offered six varieties of jam, at other times 24. Jam tasters were then offered a voucher to buy jam at a discount.
While more choice attracted more customers to look, very few of them actually bought jam. The display that offered less choice made many more sales – in fact, only 3 per cent of jam tasters at the 24-flavour stand used their discount voucher, versus 30 per cent at the six-flavor stand.
“When people are given a moderate number of options (4 to 6) rather than a large number (20 to 30), they are more likely to make a choice, are more confident in their decisions, and are happier with what they choose.”
– Sheena Iyengar, The Art of Choosing
How can this information help bloggers and writers?
If you have been blogging or writing online for a while, you have a massive archive content available for your readers. If that content is not categorized or tagged properly or at all, you are overwhelming your readers with choices they do not have time to make. I would venture without hesitation to say readers faced with an overwhelming amount of random content are bouncing out of websites faster than a dribbled basketball off a basketball court.
Now you do not have to remove any content to remedy the problem. You simply have to organize it using categories, tags, or labels (whichever is applicable to your Blog or site design). Divide your content into digestible consumable contexts and your readers will spend more time reading and less time making decisions on whether to search or navigate your blog or site to find what they want or need. Or worse, they may decide to pass up your site altogether.
The defining choices concept can be applied to a variety of areas in your personal or business life. Less does not have to be more if more is organized effectively.
If you have a ton of content or products, invest in building better filters that help people make the choice.