Defaults - Almost more important than the option!

Designers constantly weigh the comparative advantages of offering the user a changeable setting (which increases complexity but makes products more personalized) or a static design (which makes the product simple but offers no choices). Power users, like myself, crave options: our first instinct is to dive in to any product and see what we can tweak or change to our particular preferences. But newer user need the simplicity of a product where the decisions have been made for you, in (what the designers believe is) your best interest. However, lost in this dichotomy is the in-between design choice: the default. If you design an option, the default setting for that option is almost even more important than having made it an option at all! Defaults, writes Kevin Kelly, are "sticky" - most never get changed. So consider them carefully: what's best for the user (a default 4% contribution to your IRA), what's safest (default traction control "on" in cars), what's most private (location awareness "off" on phones)? Defaults can make or break the user experience as much as any other design choice!
[via Good Experience; image credit Adrian Sannier]

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