When presenting users with any number of options, would it be better to show all options at once, or break it down into steps?

Imagine you have a list of options;

  • 1a
  • 1b
  • 2
  • 3

One way of dealing with this could be to show all options at once, so four options total (1a, 1b, 2, 3). Another way to go could be to show 1, 2 and 3 and only show 1a and 1b when a user selects 1.

Which one is easier for a user to proces?

Note; I can vaguely remember something about 'eight choices at once is easier dan having four choices twice' but I am not sure where this came from or if it is true to begin with.



It depends on the complexity of the question.

I'm working within GDS guidelines at the moment (UK Gov digital standards) and they favour small options per question. They found having more options on a page led to more errors and loss of focus.


Start with one thing per page If your service is used infrequently by people without a broad range of digital skills and confidence they may struggle with complicated forms and lack the opportunity to learn how they work.

Start by splitting the form across multiple pages with each page containing just one thing, for example:

-one piece of information you’re telling a user

-one decision they have to make

-one question they have to answer

The flip side is frequently answered questions and experienced users. In which case breaking them into too many steps would not be a good idea: the user has encountered the question before and wants quick access to the choices.

Summary: figure out how much attention you want the user to devote to the options and how frequently they will encounter the question.

  • Thanks. In this case users will encounter this situation once. – Nick Groeneveld Dec 12 '17 at 15:23
  • Then think about importance of the questions and the consequences of the user answering wrongly – colmcq Dec 12 '17 at 15:37

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