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Easy Principle

 

Principles > Easy Principle

Principle | How it works | So what?

Principle

We like things that are easy, and often choose them over things that are not easy. We also think less about easy things.

How it works

We have limited time and energy, and have to allocate this across the many things that we could do. A simple method we use in this is to seek the easiest option in all areas except those where we want to spend more time. A physical analogy is that water runs downhill.

Things that are easy include those which are:

  • Familiar, matching existing mental models.
  • Simple, with less elements to consider.
  • Separated, with parts that can be considered individually.
  • Non-complex, requiring less mental effort.
  • Not a threat, and which can be safely ignored.
  • Unimportant, and can be dismissed without further attention.

You can see the easy principle being used in such as:

  • Signs and displays that use a limited and coherent colour palette.
  • Use of as few words as possible to say something.
  • Using visual chunking, for example sentences that stick to one line or document constrained to a single page.
  • Pricing that offers a simple set of options (typically three or less).
  • Use of images, metaphors and so on that are familiar and easy to understand.
  • Forms where you 'just sign here'.

When things are not easy, people may take coping actions such as:

  • Doing a 'best fit' pattern match to models they are familiar with.
  • Making assumptions and cognitive leaps that are wrong.
  • Grasping at straws, accepting solutions that may be sub-optimal.
  • Ignoring the whole thing, and hoping this will not cause problems.
  • Attacking the items or source, treating the difficulty as a threat.

So what?

There can be a tension between where you want people to place their attention and where they want to focus. This can result in you making things more detailed when they prefer easy (and may hence ignore your detail). To overcome this, you may want to do things such as:

  • Reduce what you are saying or selling to something easier.
  • Start off with easy steps that draws them in, then gradually adding detail as they become interested.
  • Use a simple form of intrigue, where it is easy to want more, to make them more interested.
  • Use difficulty to push them away from things you want them to ignore.
  • Make things easy which you do not want them to think hard about.

See also

Tension principle, Simplicity Principle, Coping Mechanisms

 

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