Use smaller navigation menus on your website – choice paralyzes the decision maker

Keith Curreri - Blog Headshot

By Keith Curreri on February 27, 2019

Two psychologists did a little experiment at a grocery store.

On a regular day at a local supermarket they put out a display table of different types of jelly.

24 different types of jelly to be exact.

They offered free samples to everyone who walked by and then they measured how many people purchased the jelly.

The very next day they did the same experiment, but instead of 24, they only put out 6 different kinds of jelly.

Can you guess which day they sold more jelly?

The psychologists found that while the big display table (with 24 options) generated a lot more interest, people were far less likely to purchase a jar of jelly compared to the small display table.

About 10x less likely.

This study, which has been replicated many times, shows that it may seem like choice is appealing, but too many choices can be overloading.

Choice paralyzes the decision maker

I like to keep this study in mind when I’m designing website navigation menus.

There have been numerous studies on menu page count – the sweet spot is to have 5-7 pages. The less the better.

What happens if you can’t limit down the number of pages that far? There’s options – that’s the perfect time to use sub-menus and secondary menus.

Check out some mega-websites to see if they’re following this technique (like apple.com, mcdonalds.com, gm.com, etc). If mega-corporations can limit their menus to 5-7 pages then anyone can.

The Takeaway: Too many pages in your website navigation menu will overwhelm visitors and result in them leaving your site.

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