I have for years been fascinated with a concept I call : Freedom from choice. The notion that is not always best to give users the ability to choose between 100s of things, but better to give them a selective few things that is right for them. The original idea came after reading Influences. It claims that sales of jars of jam dramatically increased if you only offered a few selected choices (e.g. 3 versus 40). In the context of TV I think this is one of the elements that makes traditional flow tv so compelling – and why some people still flip between channels filled with shit even if they have their Tivo filled with stuff they know they like. In a online video world I see few online sites that managed to make effective use of this effect. A fear is that we offer the user so much choice that they get overwhelmed. (for a more detailed take on that check out this amazing lecture on TED’s website by Dan Gilbert ).
As we see web 2.0 become more humanised I think we will see sites become better of just presenting the few selected choices that the user might need at that point – not the endless lists of stuff that we see on some sites. The interesting thing is Dan Gilberts lecture is that its touches an interesting paradox; if you ask users “would you rather choose between 3 things or 1000 things” of cause they think they would prefer the more options, however if you then test their happiness or buying behavior it shows that they dont.
Will write more about this later.
Other articles where I have tried to explain Freedom from Choice: