Thinking requires a lot of cognitive effort. That’s why people choose the default or what’s the norm.
Illustration from Data Analysts For Social Good
Can you guess which country citizens are the most likely to donate their organs? Netherlands or Belgium? Denmark or Sweden?
Let me briefly answer that question.
- Belgians are more likely to donate their organs then Dutch people.
- Swedish people are more likely to do the same and that’s how they differ from their neighbours' folks from Denmark.
Below you can see the chart that shows the organ donation consent rate for several countries in Europe. Including the mentioned ones above.
What might explain these differences? In countries such as Denmark and Netherlands, organ donation consent is “opt-in”, meaning people have to fill in a form and check a box to choose to donate their organs. In countries such as Belgium and Sweden, organ donation consent is presumed. People who don’t want to donate their organs have to essentially fill out a form to “opt-out”, meaning by default people consent to donate their organs.
The large difference in organ consent rates is essentially caused by a difference in defaults in the two sets of countries and illustrates the power of defaults.
When people make decisions with a pre-selected choice option — a ‘default’ — they are more likely to select that option. Because defaults are easy to implement, they constitute one of the most widely employed tools in the choice architecture toolbox. — © Cambridge University Press 2019 says.
How can we use that in UX?
I want to showcase 2 points of view. In my opinion, the default should be:
- what the majority of your users will want
- what you want users to perform
What the majority of your users will want
It seems to be the most obvious. Some people call it “smart defaults”. Good defaults design can be found on travel sites. Skyscanner pre-populates cabin class and travellers fields to what most other users typically select.
You can also pre-select the user’s country based on their geolocation data.
WooCommerce shopping cart
What you want users to perform
You can use default settings when it is possible for the app to make qualified guesses regarding what the user might choose. Push notifications on Android apps is a perfect example. You don’t have to trigger a system push question on this platform. If the user agreed on notification on the system level, then he will receive your messages. Amazingly, less than 5% of users change default settings.
Push notifications on iOS vs Android
Let’s have a look at another example. A few months ago I was wondering how to convince users of the app I lead to chose a specific pricing plan. I wanted them to subscribe for a monthly plan. In the past, the user had to choose the plan and then continue (start a free trial).
We simply skipped the choosing plan part and selected the monthly plan as a default. It was a small step for development, but a giant leap for the performance and results. It worked. It showed us how important small changes based on behavioural economics are. Turn this to your advantage :)
If you are curious about behavioural economics in UX check my latest article about the peak-end rule in products.
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