Too many options are worse than none

I went on a cruise last summer. On the ship, there were two different shows taking place every night at the same time. Every day, our family decided if we wanted to go to either of the shows, and if so, which one. It was straightforward, and we had a great holiday.

Compare this with something which most of us have done from time to time. You’re wondering what to do in the evening, so you look at the 10 films on at the big multi-screen cinema. There are several which seem good, so you look at a few reviews, then you present a few options to the people you’re going out with, and they say they prefer a different film, so you go back to the reviews …and in the end you don’t go to the cinema at all. Once I was out in the West End of London with friends, and we walked around trying to find a restaurant for an hour or more, always thinking: “that looks nice, but let’s go and see that one up the road before deciding”. Eventually we went to the pub and ate lots of crisps and peanuts instead.

A good face-to-face sales call might involve the salesperson bringing out 10 brochures, quickly establishing which one is right for the prospect, then putting the rest away and getting on with the pitch. The other brochures would not remain fanned out in front of the prospect as a permanent distraction.

Do I need to complete the analogy with your website? On many sites, even when we get to the final, hovering-over-the-dotted-line closing page (“fill in your details here to request a sales call”), the sites still insist on presenting the prospect with fifty other options, in the shape of menus, navigation and all the rest of the junk which is lazily slapped in identical form on every page. Why would anyone do this?

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