The Science of Web Design: Give Users Options, But Not Too Many


Home / The Science of Web Design: Give Users Options, But Not Too Many

Allow users to customize your website, and increase interactivity with your users. Image by LegendsWeb

Web Community Options: Hold The Gadgets, Please!

So creating interactivity is as simple as offering users tons of options for customization, right? The more the better? Dr. Sundar’s results did not bear out this hypothesis. He tells us, “Interestingly, offering users functional customization (i.e., adding new gadgets and widgets) and an opportunity to forward content do not always lead to such positive effects. Some choice is good for adding gadgets and filtering existing content, but we found that too much choice leads to decision fatigue, and is, in fact, detrimental to a user’s sense of agency and community. Therefore, stacking up self-expression tools in an interface is not a good idea. There is such a thing as too much interactivity, which calls for a need to balance between offering opportunities for self-expression and limiting their decision fatigue.”

Self-Expression Is Key

According to Dr. Sundar, “Our study reveals that users have an innate need to express themselves through original prose  – a need that appears to be sparked when the site allows for expression of one’s identity through cosmetic customization features. When you allow them to cosmetically customize, it seems to whet the appetite for composing original prose – they will actively blog, or if that is not available, they will actively comment on other people’s posts.”

Getting Browsers Involved in a Community

The combination of a limited choice of cosmetic changes, gadgets or widgets, and the ability to create blog entries (interestingly, the study showed that actual unique blog entries were more effective than ‘sharing’ style updates, in which participants shared other people’s content) appears to be optimum when it comes to inspiring interactivity in an online community. Many thanks to Dr. Sundar for taking the time to share his perspective!


Sundar, S., Oh, J., Bellur, S., Jia, H., Kim, H-S. Interactivity as Self-Expression: A Field Experiment with Customization and Blogging. (2012). Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems.

Leave a Comment