What Is Hicks Law and How to Use It for Successful Product UX?

What Is Hicks Law and How to Use It for Successful Product UX? cover

Think about the last time you watched a film on Netflix. How long did it take you to pick one? Was it an instant decision?

Or were you like me, browsing through the countless options, just to realize half an hour later or so that you still don’t know what to see and it’s too late now to start watching anything?

If it’s the latter, then you’ve experienced Hick’s Law first-hand! What’s the lesson for you as a product designer or product manager though?

That’s exactly what we explore in the article. We look at:

  • How Hick’s Law works
  • Its impact on product design
  • How to apply it to build better products
  • Some successful examples

Ready? Let’s do it!


  • According to Hick’s Law, users bombarded with too many choices take longer to make decisions or complete their tasks.
  • Apart from slowing them down, having too many options can be tiring and makes the experience less enjoyable.
  • To avoid this, make your sign-up process as simple as possible and ask them only for the information that you need to personalize their experience.
  • Simplifying and uncluttering the UI will reduce the cognitive overload on users and allow them to complete their tasks in less time.
  • When the user logs in for the first time, give them only the basic information that they need to start using the product.
  • Design progressive onboarding experiences to gradually introduce features that are relevant to their use cases. Don’t introduce complex functionality until users can use the basic features competently.
  • By tracking product usage, for example, interactions with features or page views, you can identify which parts of the product are most relevant for users and which of them are underutilized.
  • Heatmaps give you instant insights into where users may be encountering friction.
  • To choose the best UI design for products with lots of users, you can use A/B tests. However, make sure to test one variable at a time.
  • If you want to see how Userpilot can help you optimize your user experience to reduce decision fatigue and the time to value, book the demo!

What is Hick’s Law?

Hick’s Law, also called Hick-Hyman Law, is a design principle invented by two British and American psychologists, William Edmund Hick and Ray Hyman.

The law states that the more options you have, the longer it takes to make a decision. Consequently, reducing the number of choices makes the decision-making process easier and reduces users’ response time.

For example, there are usually dozens of dishes on a restaurant’s menu, so choosing one takes forever. However, if there were only 2, you could make the decision in no time.

How’s that relevant for UX designers?

The importance of Hick’s Law for UX designers

Including too many links on your landing page or too many icons in the UI will have the same effect on users.

How so?

The cognitive overload on users presented with too many options can lead to decision fatigue, which slows users down and can even make them abandon a task altogether.

UX designers leverage Hicks Law to make their products more intuitive to navigate and reduce the time to value.

By prioritizing the most important features and presenting users with fewer choices, UX designers can avoid overwhelming them and reduce their reaction time.

How to avoid information overload by applying Hick’s Law?

Let’s have a look at a few practical ways product teams can use Hicks Law to make better design decisions and create frictionless user experiences.

Simplify the sign-up process

The sign-up page is the first step in the customer journey. That’s where your user decides to give your product a go.

A user’s time, patience, and motivation have limits, so the sooner they make the decision, the lower the risk that you lose them. Also, signing up quickly means they can start using the product and experiencing its value immediately.

To achieve this, keep the process simple. Include a strong headline, a registration form, and a powerful CTA. Don’t ask for an email confirmation and if possible, enable Single Sign-On to reduce friction.

Also requesting payment details slows down the process, so consider offering a no credit card trial.

Keep welcome surveys short and simple

Whether they’re a part of sign-up or the onboarding flow, keep your initial surveys simple.

Ask only for information that is absolutely necessary to personalize user experience. In most cases, this is a question about the user’s role in the company, the jobs to be done, and what they want to achieve with the product.

Hicks Law: keep the welcome screen and survey to the minimum
BacklinkManager welcome screen and survey created in Userpilot.

Create a clutter-free UI for a better user experience

If there’s one thing that will help users complete their tasks quickly and easily while enjoying the experience, it’s clutter-free UI.

You can do it by following some good design principles:

  • Include icons only for key features.
  • Build collapsible navigation menus and group items in categories.
  • Use lots of white space.
  • Use visual hierarchy, like different font sizes, to focus on the most important elements.
  • Highlight the recommended options.
  • Create shortcut buttons to eliminate some of the steps needed to complete the task.
  • Choose color patterns to make your product more inclusive and accessible.

Use progressive onboarding to shorten TTV

So you’ve managed to segment your users effectively based on their JTBDs and match up the features they need – excellent!

Don’t try to introduce all of them at once as it’s another easy way to lose your users.

Instead, use progressive onboarding. Break the process into stages and begin by giving only the guidance that’s essential to start using the product.

Use tooltips and checklists to showcase the key functionality and reduce the time to value.

Only once users master the key features and start experiencing value, you can start secondary onboarding and introduce more complex functionality.

Hicks Law: use tooltips and checklists to introduce the relevant features
An onboarding tooltip created in Userpilot.

Don’t overload users with too much information

Even though your product has a lot of features, the odds are that a particular user will need only a selection of them. If so, why flood them with information about them all?

Doing so could be extremely overwhelming and may make the users wonder if the product is suitable for them after all.

To avoid this, use the information about users you collect during the sign-up process to segment them and customize the onboarding experience for each segment. Focus only on the relevant features and provide the guidance that they need to master them.

Analyze user behavior to identify where complexity arises

Following the design principles can take you only so far. To fine-tune the UX experience, you need empirical data about user in-app behavior.

Track product usage analytics

Tracking product usage helps identify the key features that users use the most. Once you know that, you can redesign your UI to include only the relevant functionality.

The features that users don’t use are really telling as well. If a feature is relevant to their use case but users don’t engage with it, it means the UI is not intuitive enough for them to find the feature.

The same applies to page views. If the page view numbers or conversion rates are low, it may mean that the menu is too complex, and users can’t find what they need.

Hicks Law: track product usage
Product usage tracking in Userpilot.

Observe heatmaps to spot friction

Heatmaps are another great way of tracking what happens on the page and where users find friction.

If you can see that users don’t engage with certain parts of the page, you can make sure not to put any crucial pieces of information over there. Or find a way to attract user attention, for example with a hotspot or a tooltip.

Hicks Law: Use heatmaps to find friction points UI.
Hotjar heatmap.

Conduct A/B testing to eliminate complexity

The only reliable way to decide which UI design is the least complex is through experimentation.

A/B testing enables you to determine which of two possible designs drives the best results.

The principle is simple. Start by creating two different versions of the user interface. Next, make them available for half of your users and track their engagement. Finally, compare the figures to pick the best one.

In practice, conducting A/B tests to achieve valid results can be tricky.

For starters, you need to have enough website traffic or product users for your results to be statistically significant.

What’s more, you can only test one variable at a time, so the process could be quite time-consuming. If there are lots of variables you want to test, a multivariate test would be a better alternative.

Real-life examples of Hicks’s Law from SaaS companies

Now that we know how Hick’s Law works and how to embed it in the UX design, let’s look at a few examples of its application in market-leading products.

Userpilot creates an uncluttered UI with a collapsing navigation menu

Userpilot is a product growth platform that enables product teams to analyze product usage, collect user feedback, and design onboarding experiences.

The Userpilot interface is free of clutter and distractions.

The main part of the UI has buttons and tabs for the key features, like creating events or accessing the resource center.

The rest of the features are neatly organized in a collapsing menu. To navigate it, simply click on the hamburger menu and out it pops. Click again and it’s gone.

Userpilot’s collapsing menu
Userpilot’s collapsing menu.

Miro creates an easy sign-in through SSO options

Miro is a cloud-based collaborative online whiteboard platform. It enables distributed teams to work together in real-time on a virtual whiteboard.

Miro designers appreciate the importance of a frictionless sign-up for product activation and adoption. And they know well how frustrating it is to have to complete similar sign-up forms again and again.

That’s why they provide the Single Sign-On option to their users. They have the option to sign up with their existing Google, Slack, Microsoft, Apple, or Facebook account.

This reduces the time they need to get inside the product and play with Miro’s cool features.

Miro offers SSO
Miro offers SSO.

Notion collects user information via a simple welcome survey

Notion is a powerful workspace productivity platform. It offers users the ability to create documents, take notes, manage tasks and projects, and store information in an organized and intuitive way.

Starting to use the product is super easy because the welcome survey is very minimalistic and requires little time and effort.

Once you complete the questionnaire, you’re taken to a welcome page with an onboarding checklist that is personalized based on your answers.

Notion’s welcome survey.

Kommunicate simplifies new users onboarding with interactive walkthroughs

Kommunicate is a customer support platform that provides tools to help organizations manage customer conversations. It enables companies to communicate with their customers in real-time, automate customer support tasks, and personalize customer service experiences.

To onboard its new users, Kommunicate uses interactive walkthroughs. This breaks down complex processes into simple steps and gives users a chance to tackle each of them at their own pace.

Kommunicate’s interactive walkthrough
Kommunicate’s interactive walkthrough.

Tolstoy shows users recommended videos

Tolstoy is a video commerce platform. It allows you to create interactive and shoppable videos to engage users and boost sales.

The Tolstoy team uses its own tool to create onboarding videos introducing its main features. Their selection is personalized to the needs of the users to deliver a bespoke onboarding experience.

In this way, they avoid overwhelming the users with unnecessary information and increase the chances they adopt the product.

Tolstoy’s personalized onboarding videos
Tolstoy’s personalized onboarding videos.


Hick’s Law contradicts the misconception that the more options we have, the better off we are. Most of the time, having too many choices results in sensory overload, and instead of enjoying the experience, we get tired.

In product, exhausted users are the last thing you want. To avoid it,

  • introduce your users only to the features that are relevant to their use cases,
  • don’t overload them with unnecessary information,
  • and, make the UI clear and easy to navigate.

If you want to see how Userpilot can help you analyze your users’ needs, track their product usage, and eliminate distractions from their experience, book the demo!

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