Insights: The Psychology of Simplicity

the psychology of simplicity

Do you want your startup to generate more sales? Do you want to develop a platform that people genuinely enjoy using?

Long story short: Don’t overcomplicate it.

“The Paradox of Choice,” a term coined by American psychologist Barry Schwartz, refers to a concept in psychology and business that argues that eliminating choice ultimately reduces anxiety in consumers and translates to more sales.

Imagine that you are given the choice between two paintings. You love both nearly equally and are feeling incredibly indecisive about which one to pick.

In one scenario, after you choose the painting, you cannot change your mind to return it. Without the option to switch it out, your brain adapts and learns to love the painting. You are overall very satisfied with the choice you had made.

In another scenario, after you choose the painting, you can return it and switch it out for the other at any moment. Now, you are unsure about your choice. You spend days questioning yourself and wondering if you really like the painting you have or if you liked the other one more. You are overall much less satisfied with the choice you had made.

We see this in restaurants, clothing stores, online shopping, and everywhere else in our daily life.

A restaurant with a menu of 10 key meals they make well expends significantly less funding and energy (with much better reviews on their cooking expertise) compared to a diner with 80 menu items.

Or consider, perhaps, buying a shirt on Amazon that comes in 30 colors. Choosing between sky blue, navy blue and turquoise can create so much decision paralysis that a customer opts not to finish their order at all.

Too much choice leaves people feeling overwhelmed.

If you create a website with twenty tabs that describe your wide range of services, customers are more likely to be at a loss for where to look.

Compare this to a sales funnel. We’ve seen them all before: a single, scrollable page with pictures, text, and testimonials. At the bottom, there is a compelling deal with a “Sign Up” or “Buy Now” button. The narrative is straightforward, and the call-to-action is clear. After signing up for a mailing list, you may be sent to watch a free video seminar, which will then conclude with an offer to buy a full online course, and next thing you know, you’ve been converted into a paying customer.

Much more effective than being bombarded with just a list of services and trainings to buy, right?

Same goes for any user platform.

Have you ever joined a Discord server and felt confused by the hashtags, the commands lingo and the sheer amount of channels to navigate?

You’re not alone.

Although Discord is infamous for its large user base, when it does receive complaints, it is always about the complex user interface. Successful Discords tend to be those with clear, limited and purposeful channels rather than a channel for every subject under the sun.

Or consider an app like Clubhouse, which took off within weeks of its release.

Clubhouse functions under a very basic premise and even more basic app design: Start a chat. Join a chat. Raise hand to speak. Leave. There’s not much else to it, and that ease — the opportunity to network in an incredibly easy-to-understand way — is just a part of what made Clubhouse so wildly successful.

People like simplicity

If you want to succeed, limit your product options to start, make your sales funnel straightforward, and develop a platform that is easy to use and accessible. 

Story by Sasha Temerte ’23, LaunchPad Orange Ambassador