November 13, 2020

Why Is It So Hard to Make a Decision?


Posted by Sharmarke Hujale


3 min read

Why is it so difficult for us human beings to make a decision when we are faced with so many options at our disposal?

An example would be if we were to choose between 10 different recipes or pick 15 different pieces of clothes. It gets more difficult. And it is also time-consuming. You’re feeling like you’re wasting your time.

How does this tie into design? Let’s say you’re showing the client 10 concepts for a design. It could be for a logo, a website, or something third. And you tell them to pick one of them as their favorite. Worst case scenario the client might not want any of them.

You get frustrated. They had all the options, but yet still chose not to go through with it — the problem was that there were too many options to pick from.

Many options can for the most part lead to more confusion — where should the focus be at?

It’s deeply rooted in our psychology.

Too many options can paralyze the way we make a decision. The more options we have. The more time and effort it requires from us to pull it through.

We hear terms like “Keep It Simple, Stupid” and “Less Is More” in the design community. We don’t want the client to feel overwhelmed and only present that which creates value.

We as humans also want to make the right decision when choosing something. But how can we if we are overwhelmed with information and options to choose from?

The jam experiment

Psychologists Sheena Iyengar and Mark Lepper conducted a jam experiment in 2000.

A stall was selling 24 different kinds of jam one day. While another was selling only 6 different jam the next day. The large display of jam attracted more viewers who were interested. But when it came to the actual sale. For every 10 people — only one would buy.

It shows us that more isn’t always better. Not only does this produce decision paralysis. But it can also reduce people’s satisfaction with the choice that they have made.

The same is in the design field. I have tried in my career as a designer — the more options I show the client in the initial concept phase. The more insecure they become with their decision. You end doing more revisions to present more ideas — even though you presented 7 concepts. And you’re just hoping that the client will like just one of them.

I thought to myself if I present many concepts. The more likely I am to land on a concept that they will like. It’s true that the chances are there. But it’s also a gamble.

So like the jam experiment — what we should learn from it is — that more isn’t always better. There’s a connection between the choices we make and the satisfaction we get from them.

You can read more about the study by clicking here.


Showing a client 7–10 different concepts doesn’t mean better results. The feedback will be difficult and hard. Because where should the focus be at?

Instead, try to narrow down to two or three concepts that you’re confident about. And that you think will create value for their audience and business.

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