We are currently building a form where we collect information from users and then based on this information present ranked recommendations to the user.

In what we are doing there are a few definitive tradeoffs that we need to implicitly communicate to the user so they understand how that decision impacts the way their recommendations will be ranked. An example of the type of tradeoff is service and how the relationship between speed & cost works – i.e., the faster you want something then for this product the more expensive it will be, therefore if you tell us speed is of more importance than price, we will prioritise the faster options that are slightly more expensive in our ranking algorithm. Please ignore the way the ranking algorithm works for now as it can be flexible depending on how we collect the preferences.

We are wondering the best way to present this tradeoff in the UI and the way we ask the question. We have come up with a few alternatives as per below. In each example only one button can be clicked as selected as the "active" choice.

Switch preferences

We ask the user directly their preference with a definitive answer of one or the other – the benefit of this is it becomes very clear to the user that there is one clear option which they need to choose as important to them

For example (wording to be worked on – apologies for poor diagram):

"Which one of these is more important to you?"

|-------------|   |-------------|
|    Speed    |   |  Low price  |
|-------------|   |-------------|

Linear trade-off

We get the user to indicate the leaning of their preference by selecting an option along a linear set of solution combinations between the two options. The benefit of this means users can demonstrate that both may be important or weight slightly more to one preference than entirely 100% to the preference. This is similar to those classic "strong agree" to "strongly disagree" style questionnaires you get in feedback surveys, etc. However we feel this may cause a lot of people to just click both as it is probably fair to assume both speed and price are important to everyone.

For example (wording to be worked on and illustrative only – apologies again for poor diagram):

"Between speed & price, which is the most important to you?"

Speed                                           Low price
|--------|   |--------|  |--------|  |--------|  |--------|
| Strong |   | Slight |  |  Both  |  | Slight |  | Strong |
|--------|   |--------|  |--------|  |--------|  |--------|

The question

Are on the right thinking here regarding the tradeoffs between the two? Is there a better way to ask this kind of question? Unfortunately I am an engineer with only a little UX experience so apologies if I am off with any of my terminology – any help would be super appreciated! Thanks very much!

1 Answer 1


The two options you have are mutually exclusive. I would state clearly what each solution is implying.

Speed vs. Price

o  High Speed & Low Price
o  Low Speed & High Price

The exact words might need to be softened but, not leaving out any word, the user understands the Pros and Cons of each selection.

If intermediate selections are possible then make the wording not complex.

a & !b --------- !a & b


High Speed                                                Low Speed
    &         o------------o------------o------------o        &
Low Price                                                 High Price

It depends in your case and if you want the user to be able to select a wider range of options (your second example).

Maybe, even in the situation where you simply want an A or B, you might want to let the user select between 4 options. Although he is basically choosing between two, this way the options are less aggressive and it makes the user feel he made a more customised choice.

  • Thanks, this super really helpful! The principle of communicating a degree of mutual exclusivity to the user properly is really powerful for what you've suggested and seems like a great way to communicate the trade-off. I really like the hybrid option with the 4 options where they still need to "pick a side" but can't be completely indifferent – given for us the two options can both have an impact as we are ranking the recommendations it might be important to have a weighting there and this seems like a great way to do that. Thanks again! Nov 20, 2016 at 0:45
  • I'm really glad I could be of help :)
    – Alvaro
    Nov 20, 2016 at 0:46

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