Too much choice is not (always) a bad thing

Joel Spolsky has written an interesting critique of Windows Vista where he points out that there are up to 15 ways to turn a Windows Vista computer off (I can think of a 16th – don’t license it and Windows will automatically disable your computer!).

He goes on to suggest ways to trim the number of choices down and effectively bring the number of options down to one or two.

However, Joel uses an out of date reference in his article. He says:

The more choices you give people, the harder it is for them to choose, and the unhappier they’ll feel. See, for example, Barry Schwartz’s book, The Paradox of Choice.

What Joel presumably doesn’t realise is that the Paradox of Choice’s findings have since been discredited by the authors of the paper on which Schwartz himself based his book. In their follow-up paper Knowing What You Like versus Discovering What You Want: The Influence of Choice Making Goals on Decision Satisfaction, the authors realised that when choice was ordered in ways which helped the consumer, more choice is better. Hence the success of Amazon, YouTube, Netflix, etc.

However, in the case of Vista, as Joel points out, who knows the difference between Hibernate and Sleep or Lock/Log Off/Switch User? In this case, it does seem Microsoft haven’t gone far enough to explain the differences and therefore only succeed in confusing their users.

3 thoughts on “Too much choice is not (always) a bad thing”

  1. Nice one, Tom! Good digging into the matter. Didn’t know about the ‘Paradox of Choice’ details being discredited by the authors themselves before.

    But as Joel pointed out, in Windows Vista case, the choices might just be too much. Though I don’t see users getting confused. Each user will just choose to use one of the options they best understand & stick with it.

  2. Another quirky change in vista that annoys me is the CTRL-ALT-DEL then Tab to bring up Lock Computer, Task Manager or Shut Down.

    Everytime I step away from my PC I automatically hit CTRL-ALT-DEL, hit enter and my machine is locked. Works fine in XP, 2000 etc but not in Vista to bring up the Task Manager etc.

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