Hick’s Law User Experience (UX) topic overview/definition


Hick’s Law: Concept Definition

Hick’s Law (or the Hick-Hyman Law) describes that the more choices a person is presented with, the longer the time the person will take to reach a decision. Named after psychologists William Edmund Hick and Ray Hyman, Hick’s Law is often applied in user experience (UX) design to avoid overwhelming the user with too many choices.

Specifically, Hick’s Law states that the time required to reach a decision increases logarithmically with the number of choices—this means that the increase in time taken becomes less significant as the number of choices continue to increase. Thus, Hick’s Law becomes less important when designing long lists (for instance, a contact list, or a list of UX design topics), but is crucial when designing short lists (such as a navigation menu, or action buttons in a website or app).

There are exceptions to Hick’s Law. For one, it applies only to equally probable choices, where the user is equally likely to select any of the choices. This means that if a user already knows what they want to do before seeing the list of choices, the time it takes to act is likely to be less than what Hick’s Law describes. However, the general rule of thumb of Hick’s Law is still valuable, and informs a wide range of design decisions, from the number of controls in a microwave oven, to the number of links in a website’s header.

For your convenience, we’ve collected all UX literature that deals with Hick’s Law. Here’s the full list: