Close this search box.

Think Like a UX Designer: Use Hick’s Law to Improve Your User Experience


Simple graph showing Hick's Law to improve UX

Your users constantly make decisions when interacting with your website or app — what button to click, what section to scroll to next, or what fields to fill out. They take these actions to reach their goals, whether it’s finding an answer to a question or submitting a form.

Your job is to understand what your users’ goals are and how to make it as easy as possible to reach them. Otherwise, your users can become frustrated in the process, even abandoning your site before they contact you.

While you may think that your website or app is simple to use, it’s not always the case. You may be giving users too many options at once, causing a poor user experience.

Frustrating Your Users with Too Many Choices

But, how do you know if you’re frustrating your users? Here’s some warning signs to watch for in your analytics:

  • Users quickly abandon your site before taking any action (like submitting a form)
  • High number of pageviews, but no positive action
  • Low number of pageviews per user, suggesting that navigation is too complex
  • Users make it to the checkout page, but don’t complete their purchase
  • High abandonment rates on pages with important contact forms or surveys

Your users could also be employees using an internal app to complete their daily tasks. In this case, here’s some tell-tale signs of clunky tech:

  • Voicing frustration with using the software
  • Reluctant to use it on a regular basis
  • Inconsistent or wrong data entry
  • Wasting too much time using the software

While these signs could indicate a number of issues, it’s a good idea to first consider the number choices you’re giving users and how it impacts their experience.

Improve User Experience with Hick’s Law

Users often abandon their task on your website or app when it takes too long for them to make a decision.

And, this isn’t just speculation. It’s a proven theory called Hick’s Law.

What is Hick’s Law?

Hick’s Law (or Hick-Hyman Law) is named after British and American psychologists William Edmund Hick and Ray Hyman. They examined the relationship between the number of stimuli present and an individual’s reaction time to any given stimulus. They found that the more stimuli to choose from, the longer it takes the user to make a decision on which one to interact with.

What does this mean? The more choices you present to your users, the harder it is for them to make a decision (and it’s work they don’t want to do).

Hick's Law

Putting Hick’s Law into Practice

To fix this problem, Hick’s Law suggests to remove the number of stimuli, or choices for your users. With less options, users can make quicker decisions, which leads to a better experience.

SPARK quote

Hick’s Law is a popular theory in UX design, and it’s something we follow here at SPARK for our clients when designing websites, apps, and dashboards. It helps us create intuitive experiences that encourage users to take action by making it as simple as possible. Here are a few examples:

Simplifying Forms 

SPARK Senior UX Designer Kevin Wolf puts Hick’s Law into practice when designing online forms. For a recent client, he cut down the number of fields on a single page to make the form less overwhelming.

SPARK quote

Clear Call-to-Actions

Important call-to-actions should be front and center on your website to make them easy for users to find. See how we positioned “request a proposal” in both the top navigation and above the fold (or top half of your web page).

Calls to action on website

Making Data Entry Fast and Simple

This employee app for Esper Electric helps construction workers log what equipment they use on a job site. In a single screen, it simplifies a time-consuming task into a few clicks.

Esper Electric mobile mock up using Hick's law

How to Apply Hick’s Law

To apply Hick’s Law, you should first put yourself in the position of your users. What goals do they need to accomplish on your website or app? Then, you can strategize on how to simplify the steps (and time) it takes to achieve those goals.

When looking at your own website or app, there are a few key areas that you can apply Hick’s Law to:

  • Online forms
  • Call-to-actions
  • Data entry on apps
  • Checkout process and payment capture
  • Site navigation

Whatever you decide to improve, my advice to anyone is,  “Always remember to Keep It Simple Stupid.”

SPARK quote

Download our Website Prep Checklist

Is it time for your business to update its website? A little thought and preparation before you start can go a long way. Download our checklist to make it easy to plan for a successful project.

More from the author

Alecia Frederick
UX Director As UX Director, Alecia brings over 12 years of front-end development and UX design to SPARK. She enjoys creating a design culture that bridges the gap between design and development, while creating products that unite business goals with UX for clients. connect on Linkedin

More Related Articles

black babkgorund with green money sign

Cost of Custom Software Development: How Transparent Process Leads to Accurate Project Estimates

Learn how SPARK goes from a ballpark estimate to an accurate cost estimate for your...

Read More
How to build a SaaS solution with $0 investment

How To Build a SaaS Solution with $0 Investment and a Customer-Centric Approach

Learn how to use a customer-centric approach for building a sucessful SaaS platform with $0...

Read More
A pciture of a computer with tools over top of it

From Burden to Advantage: How to Embrace and Modernize Your Legacy Software

A client recently came to me and said, “We have this legacy software we built....

Read More