The Sweet Spot on the Curve

by November 6, 2006

At User Interface 11, Barry Schwartz outlined his theory of the relationship between subjective satisfaction (happiness) and the number of choices people have available to them. He pointed out a “sweet spot” on the curve that got the balance of available choices and personal satisfaction just right.

A light went off in my head that told me I’d seen that sweet spot before. So in the spirit of my User Experience Comes in Threes roundup, here’s a set of “sweet spots on the curve” I’ve come across.

The Paradox of Choice, Barry Schwartz When people have no choice, life is miserable. As you start adding options, you increase wellbeing. However, you reach a point where the curve flattens out and there are diminishing marginal effects. At a point in the curve, satisfaction drops and you are worse off than when you were neutral.

Featuritis Explained, Marissa Mayer We need to increase features while maintaining a great user experience. In the beginning as you add features/functionality there is a good rise in user experience. But it plateaus quickly with a sharp degradation.

Product Lifecycle, Don Norman With time, the technology matures, offering better performance and higher reliability. When the technology exceeds the basic needs of most of its customers, there is a major change in customer behavior. Emotional reaction, pride of ownership, and pleasurability all can become major selling points.

The Featuritis Curve, Kathy Sierra We believe that those providing the products and services that give the most "I Rule" experiences, without tipping too far over the Happy User Peak, will be the most successful.