[sociate] The Law of Convenience

  • From: "Jerry Michalski" <jerry@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "Sociate News" <sociate@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sat, 24 Aug 2002 16:37:54 -0400

Friction keeps us from doing things we might otherwise really want to do,
such as writing a handwritten note to a friend or donating money to people
whose work we admire. The causes can be quite complex, such as the
bookkeeping, auditing and disclosure that assures us that donated funds
really get to their intended recipients, but it's the other extreme that is
remarkable:  Even simple impediments can become insurmountable obstacles.

If it's hard to park at a downtown store, you might go to a shopping center
a little farther away, or be interested in home-delivered groceries. If an
online service won't store your ID and password, even for valid security
reasons, and requires you to type in twenty characters, you won't be eager
to use it. It doesn't take that much friction to cause a problem. Even one
extra step can have as significant an effect as twenty.

Businesses constantly test this Law, and our patience, to make money.
Ticketmaster hates deep linking because it wants to be sure its visitors go
through several pages of ads before they get to the information they want.
That's why so many sites have those pesky pop-up ads on every page. That's
why TV networks feared TV remote controls early on. The work of getting up
to change channels was turned into a flick of the thumb, and suddenly
viewers were far more likely to switch programs or skip around during ad

The Law of Convenience is simple.

  Every additional step that stands between people's desires and the
fulfillment of those desires greatly decreases the likelihood that they will
undertake the activity.
The Law has wide applicability. It's not just about product or service
design, its obvious applications, but also about business models and sales

It's also less about laziness than about habits and memory. Reducing the
number of steps it takes to do something makes the entire activity more
efficient and more likely to become a habit. But first you have to know that
it exists at all, which can be a huge barrier.

Not many people know that you can change the default home page on your
browser (call it the Law of Defaults, a corollary of the Law of
Convenience). Fewer still know how to, even though it is easy. It can also
be done by a computer program, so some Websites ask whether you want to make
them your home page, knowing that people who say yes by mistake may not know
how to reverse their decision later.


Other related posts:

  • » [sociate] The Law of Convenience