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I'm working on a quoting system for a catering company.

It's really just going to be a 3 course menu, where the items in each course will be suggested based on the event type selected.

For each course, there are a potential of 15 options. However, I do not need to recommend all 15.

I'm thinking of suggesting 7, with the option to select other, where maybe a drop down list and comment box will allow for more control of the menu.

So my question is, is there a suggested number of options to provide a user?

Amazon suggests 10 products when I select an item. Ebay suggests 8 products when I select an item.

What are your thoughts?

Maybe I should show them all. What would you do?

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Basically the number of choices given to the users should not be too many. How much depends on what the product is and what are the suggested products. Since, here its food, the lesser number of choices the more likely that people would actually make a choice.

Sheena Iyengars famous jam choice experiment talks about choice overload.

" At a luxury food store in Menlo Park, researchers set up a table offering samples of jam. Sometimes, there were six different flavors to choose from. At other times, there were 24. (In both cases, popular flavors like strawberry were left out.) Shoppers were more likely to stop by the table with more flavors. But after the taste test, those who chose from the smaller number were 10 times more likely to actually buy jam: 30 percent versus 3 percent. Having too many options, it seems, made it harder to settle on a single selection."

So providing with too many choices might not be a good idea. I would suggest keep the number between 5 and 8.
A better idea would be to actually experiment with different number of suggestions and closely making note of how many of the users would choose from the suggested items. Over a period of time, say about a month, you might have a better idea as to how many suggestions is suitable and also which ones would be good.

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People can remember on average between 6 and 9 things at a given time. I think this is one of the reasons why most website like Amazon and Ebay show a number of suggestions that is fairly close to this figure. You don't want to overload your user with suggestions.

  • Thats correct, glad that you mentioned it. I forgot to add about Millers Law. 7 + or - 2 is the actually the magic numbers stated in that law. Find it here: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… – Vinay Jul 24 '14 at 18:01
  • I wanted to add a reference about Millers Law but I forgot how it was called and couldn't find it. So thank you Vinay for adding this. – Toon Gijbels Jul 24 '14 at 18:04

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