What is Satisficing?
Satisficing describes a decision-making strategy where individuals only search for possible solutions until they find an acceptable option. In design, the term is often used to describe the way in which users do not go through all information on webpages and other products. Rather, they stop reading once they believe they have found enough information for their purpose.
Satisficing is a combination of the words “suffice” and “satisfy”; it was first described by economist and psychologist Herbert A. Simon. According to Simon, people do not seek the best possible solutions to problems; instead, they operate within what he has called “bounded rationality” (where time, cognitive limitations, and control over the situation play a factor in decision making). This concept is evident in the design world in general—goods offered to customers who use them within certain parameters. For example, the best solution for a leaking pipe is replacement; however, if a homeowner is seeking to “make do” in the meantime by patching a slight, slow leak with plumber’s goop, he will purchase what he deems will “do the job.”
The human tendency to satisfice has a large impact on UX design. In fact, several key usability principles, such as “offering the right information in a timely manner” and “making actions as easy to perform as possible,” are based on the satisficing behavior of users. Most conventional wisdom relating to writing for the web (e.g., starting with the main idea before elaborating) is also modeled with satisficing in mind. The concept of satisficing also tells us that users will not stay on a product (e.g., your site’s landing page) for long, or continue reading a webpage—unless the rewards are obvious and substantial, or the cost of doing so (in terms of time and effort) has been made minimal for them.
Literature on Satisficing
Here’s the entire UX literature on Satisficing by the Interaction Design Foundation, collated in one place:
Learn more about Satisficing
Take a deep dive into Satisficing with our course UI Design Patterns for Successful Software .
Have you ever found yourself spotting shapes in the clouds? That is because people are hard-wired to recognize patterns, even when there are none. It’s the same reason that we often think we know where to click when first experiencing a website—and get frustrated if things aren’t where we think they should be. Choosing the right user interface design pattern is crucial to taking advantage of this natural pattern-spotting, and this course will teach you how to do just that.
User interface design patterns are the means by which structure and order can gel together to make powerful user experiences. Structure and order are also a user’s best friends, and along with the fact that old habits die hard (especially on the web), it is essential that designers consider user interfaces very carefully before they set the final design in stone. Products should consist of such good interactions that users don’t even notice how they got from point A to point B. Failing to do so can lead to user interfaces that are difficult or confusing to navigate, requiring the user to spend an unreasonable amount of time decoding the display—and just a few seconds too many can be “unreasonable”—rather than fulfilling their original aims and objectives.
While the focus is on the practical application of user interface design patterns, by the end of the course you will also be familiar with current terminology used in the design of user interfaces, and many of the key concepts under discussion. This should help put you ahead of the pack and furnish you with the knowledge necessary to advance beyond your competitors.
So, if you are struggling to decide which user interface design pattern is best, and how you can achieve maximum usability through implementing it, then step no further. This course will equip you with the knowledge necessary to select the most appropriate display methods and solve common design problems affecting existing user interfaces.