Hick's Law Applied to Application Design

Hick's Law[1], named after British psychologist William Edmund Hick, describes that the time it takes to make a decision increases as a result of the number of alternatives increase.


A proper understanding of Hick's Law can help designers prioritize a path for their audience that helps them accomplish their task as efficiently as possible resulting in a delightful experience. If Hick's Law is avoided the danger becomes a design that includes an array of choices that the audience may not understand, resulting in confusion, frustration and an undesirable experience.

Here's a simple perspective to ponder. Why do some people prefer using their mobile app for basic, routine tasks over a desktop app with more functionality and features? Could it be that the paths that exist on mobile apps are more focused and clear? Perhaps due to their smaller form factor? This smaller form factor is but one function of constraint that forces the application designer to be more concrete about the options presented, thus presenting the user with a simpler and more clear path to take.

[1] Also known as the Hick–Hyman Law