Informed choice

I’m spending the biggest part of the day in one of those luxury hotels, the ones that are so expensive that no detail is left to chance.

One significant detail: if you wash your hands in the restrooms, you can choose between using a paper towel or a fabric one.

Now, I’m usually quite sensitive to environmental issues. Not that I’m a Green activist, but let’s just say that I care about those things.

That’s why I started to wonder… Which would have the biggest impact: using a paper towel and then throwing it away or rather using one of the fabric ones, that would be washed immediately afterwards? Which of the two choices would have the lesser impact on the environment?

I have no idea, so I choose practically at random each time.

It’s a petty question, I know, but the reason I wrote all of this is another. (Beware, this is the point where my true geek® nature comes out. Don’t go below this line unless you want to read computer related stuff 😛 )

As application designers, we might put our users in the same situation: we make them choose between different options, but we don’t give them enough information about the alternatives. And usually, the consequences of those decisions are slightly more important than the ones I had with towels 😉 .

That’s when choices become dilemmas. And we should avoid putting people in that position.

Every time we present our users with a choice, we should make sure they know everything they need to make a good decision, why are we forcing them to choose and which the consequences of their action are perfectly clear for them.

Alessandro Bahgat
Software Engineer & Manager

I am an engineer and manager of engineers, I sometimes play with side projects and write about my experiences in my spare time.

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