The Availability Heuristic

The availability heuristic is a mental shortcut that leads us to draw conclusions based on what comes to mind immediately. This means that when we make a decision, we give a lot of importance to things that we recall quickly and things that we can already see in front of us. How would you describe a Post-it?

First, let me give you my answer. The picture that came to mind for me is the classic Post-it note that I’ve seen in movies and in my office. It’s small, yellow and inlight. What was most available to me was something I remembered instantly because I’ve seen it a million times. If I ask you to describe a Post-it when this table is right in front of me, you might mention that post. It’s come in many different shapes, sizes, colors and textures. Your answer is being shaped not only by your memory, but by what you’re seeing now. Those are the two main pieces that go into the availability, heuristic what we remember quickly and what we see, we can design with the availability heuristic in mind to guide users through a typical journey. This principle should influence the way that you design, particularly the beginning and end of an experience at the very beginning of a user journey. Pay attention to the very first impression your site makes. When someone is forming a first impression, they make a value judgment about a site based on what is available right in front of them. Consider the availability heuristic when planning your branding and marketing strategy. The information that people have been repeatedly exposed to becomes more relevant to them. Taking a long term approach that focuses on servicing your product and many relevant search results, for example, will often prove more useful than trying to create one particularly memorable advertising campaign. The mental shortcuts that we use unconsciously help us make decisions. The way we often need to do that is to say quickly make sure that you consider the availability heuristic throughout your site to design for the way that your users think.

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