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I have a checkout page and a list of radio buttons for a shipping method. While the opinions vary whether or not some value should be pre-selected wherenever there's a radio button list, my case is a little different because a user has to select an option to proceed.

Should I pre-select the 1st, cheapest and slowest, shipping option?

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When I shop from Amazon India, they show me the choose the delivery speed option and by default the radio button for free shipping is selected. I can change it to two-day delivery for additional shipping cost. But by default I have seen the free shipping radio button pre-selected. What you can do is, conduct the A/B testing. Pre-select free shipping radio button for 50% of the visitors and leave it blank for other 50% of the visitors. See how they behave and then make the decision. As far as you are clearly showing and communicating this, and leave it up for the end users to decide, it shouldn't be much of a problem. Hope this helps.

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The way I would do it usually is by researching which option would be in the best interest of the user as well as the company I am working with so that later I can leave it pre-selected.

Here is why:

  1. By leaving an option pre-selected, you provide them with the information on what the action is and what the result looks like after performing that action, which sets their expectations going forward.

  2. By using the most frequent option or an option that would be in the best interest of the business you are working with, you can reduce their time spent on the checkout page and at the same time, you can point them in the desired direction.

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From (my) consumer point-of-view, the "fairest" way would be to either not select an option, or – if that is not possible/desirable – to select the cheapest/free option. The main reason being that the cost (to the customer) of "premium" shipping options is almost certainly at least as much as the cost to the seller, so pre-selecting a premium option will (slightly) increase profits and may make your website appear to be "money grabbing".

Beyond that, if you have "memory" of previous visits (either through agreed-to cookies, or settings in a customer's account), you could:

  • The first time they are presented with the choice, add a "Use this as my preferred shipping method" checkbox.

  • On return visits, if they ticked that box, pre-select whatever was their preferred choice of shipping method.

  • If a returning customer changes from their preferred choice, re-display the "Use this as..." checkbox (unchecked), allowing them to choose between a "one-off" change (e.g. for an urgent item), or an ongoing change of preference.

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