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.