By the power of Defaults

What we call default is actually the same everywhere. It is the state of the product when it first meets the user. In the user experience design area there are some defaults as like as everywhere.

Maybe the defaults for the user may not be seen as an important detail, maybe they may be ignored, but our job is to make their job easier while the defaults remain invisible for them.

Invisibility is the superpower of the defaults.

What is the default and where does it get its power?

The defaults are what we assume the user will behave. For example, selecting the option that we assume the user will select.

At this point, the defaults got its power from the users and user’s needs. If we think about the example above, if 95% of users select the first of the four options, select the first option by default. In this way form filling process will become more effortless. But in the wrong hands that will be a disaster! If you bring an option by default that users cannot choose, the process will become more effort. Because users tend to skip a pre-selected location. They won’t read or select an option again because of there are a selected option. As you can see, the strength of the assumed is actually its weakest point.

A few suggestions.

There are lots of place to use the defaults. I suggest a few things but absolutely that's not enough.

Based on geographic location, you can preselect the country/city. If you can somehow determine the user’s location, use that. If the user’s location is detected as Kadıköy, you can default the city to Istanbul.

Imagine designing a ticket inquiry/purchase form like this example. If you have the location information of your user, you can bring the closest airport to him by default.

Defaults may make the user’s job easier, of course, while doing this, you should not forget that that default option will not be used by everyone. Therefore, the default options should also be easily changed. So you may be giving a location-based value; but the user may not want to share their location with you. In this case, you should offer him a different option, and that option should also make the user’s job easier.

If there are areas that the user should pay special attention to, such as signing up, signing up for the mailing list and confirming the consent text, do not use defaults for these!

Default Settings

In a study by Facebook, it was revealed that users were confused about their privacy settings. Users thought that the default options were the best for them and Facebook helped them for more privacy. I will not argue whether this is true; but there are also studies showing that only 5% of users change the default settings.

At this point, you should act accordingly. This also falls under the issue of “ethical design”. For what purpose will you use the fact that only 5% of users are changing the default settings? In your favor or in the user’s favour? My advice is to be in favor of the user. For example, in text editing application (word, google docs, pages) you can bring autosave by default. This will be a useful default for users.

Examples can be multiplied; But I want to finish.

As a result;

People tend not to change the default values. You should use this behavior for both your benefit and the user’s benefit. You can make the power of the default your own and speed up the user’s work and guide him correctly.

Thanks for reading.




Senior User Experience Designer at Arçelik

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Selçuk Avcı

Selçuk Avcı

Senior User Experience Designer at Arçelik

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