Making (restaurant) decisions easier — a quick sketch.

Binary Decisions Restaurant Menu, by Sarah Peck

I was sitting at a restaurant not too long ago, reading through another incredibly long list of options, both overwhelmed and exasperated by the choices in front of me. I just want something good to eat! I thought. I don't want to read everything and choose. My analytically-focused brain, however, often prompts me to read every single option before making a decision, because I want to be sure that I've made the best decision.

This got me thinking, however, about how we make decisions, decision paradoxes, and how to design menus that are easy for the user, not the sender. It's not enough to put all the information onto a page. What if we designed a menu that took into account the psychology of how we make decisions?

A quick sketch later, and my sister and I brainstormed a menu that presented only binary options. You decide between a series of two choices, until you arrive at three or fewer options for what you might select to eat. For example, look at "start here." You have two options -- deciding between the "vegetarian/fish" side and the "meat" side. Once you pick a side, go up if you want fish, down if you want veggie. Then continue to select until you pick what you want to eat. Check it out, above.

Restaurant menus, like many, many other consumer interfaces, are typically designed with the first intent of giving the user all of the necessary information. Secondarily, a higher-end restaurant might layer in sophisticated-looking fonts, higher-quality papers and other polishes that make the menu look and feel in accordance with the brand. But what about a menu that understands the way that human brains work? That understands--and incorporates--human psychology and decision-making into the design itself?

This probably goes for other menus, too. (Such as the menu on your website, or the number of options you give people in company packages). Apple is well-known for making decisions simpler (at least they were).This menu was also inspired by a brilliant waitress that was able to nail what I wanted by closing the menu in front of me and asking me three questions (Meat or Veggie? Sweet or Salty? Carb side or veggie side?) and proceeded to give me two options for things I thought were delicious. Yes, please!

I'd love for someone to riff off of this, too. Take it--and make a better one. Make it more clear. What would you change? Would this make your decision-making easier?


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