Satisficing and Decision–making

Satisficing is a decision making strategy, the term is a combination of the words satisfy and suffice. It could be described as ‘minimal effort decision-making’.

Coined by psychologist Herbert A. Simon, satisficing refers to the tendency that users often choose the first option that satisfies a need rather than the most ‘optimal’ solution.

By presenting easy–to–follow steps in the design (a great signal–to–noise ratio), the likelihood of the user continuing in their journey to satisfy their need increases.

Satisficing Example

John has broken his leg yet wants to mow the lawn. He can't, so he wants it done quickly and effortlessly by someone else.

He looks for lawn mowing services online and finds five potential providers. He opens their websites. The first option is well-known and their site looks trustworthy. Yet he can not figure out how to book them.

He opens the second option's website and though they are the least expensive, again the booking process seems to be suboptimal. The third option allows for immediate booking on the calendar presented on the first page (no additional steps required).

Although it's the most expensive option, John realises that this fits his needs and chooses for this service. The remaining options are disregarded.

Bounded Rationality

Although the example above may sound 'lazy', it must be noted that individuals will always be limited in their rationality. Their decisions are limited by cognitive processes, the time available (John wants it done quickly and effortlessly), and the severity of the decision problem. (Individuals will spend more time finding the optimal option in high-risk decisions.)

John choice was the first satisfactory solution, something he opted for because it was 'the easiest' rather the most optimal one.


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Geffrey van der Bos is an User Experience designer and Front End Developer.
Currently working in Stuttgart Germany, for Bitfactory GmbH.