You could be forgiven for assuming that people buy products because of what they are, but the truth is that we often buy things because of where they are. For example, items on store shelves that are at eye level tend to be purchased more than items on less visible shelves. You may not know it but our everyday decisions are shaped by the world around us. The effect that eye-level shelves have on our purchase habits is just one example.
Here’s why this is important:
Something has to go on the shelf at eye level. Something has to be placed on the rack at the end of the aisle. Something must be the default choice. Something must be the option with the most visibility and prominence. This is true not just in stores, but in nearly every area of our lives. There are default choices in your office and in your car, in your kitchen and in your living room.
My argument is this:
If you design for default in your life, rather than accepting whatever is handed to you, then it will be easier to live a better life.
Let’s talk about how to do that right now!!!
Design for Default
Most of us have the freedom to make a wide range of choices throughout our day, we often make decisions based on the environment we find ourselves in.
For example, if I wanted to, I could drink a glass of wine as I write this blog. Instead, I am currently lying on my bed, with a water bottle full of fresh lemon. There is no wine in sight.
Of course, I could get up, walk to my car, drive to Tesco and buy a bottle, I probably won’t because I‘m surrounded by easier alternatives—namely, drinking water. In this case, taking a sip of water is the default decision, the easy decision.
Consider how your default decisions are designed throughout your personal and professional life. For example:
If you sleep with your phone next to your bed, then checking social media and email as soon as you wake up is likely to be the default decision.
If you walk into your living room and your couches and chairs all face the television, then watching television is likely to be the default decision.
If you keep alcohol in your kitchen, then drinking consistently is more likely to be the default decision.
Of course, defaults can be positive as well.
If you keep weights next to your desk at work, then a bit of exercise is more likely to be the default decision.
If you keep a water bottle with you throughout the day, then drinking water rather than pop (or alcohol) is more likely to be the default decision.
If you place floss in a visible location (like next to your toothbrush), then flossing is more likely to be the default decision.
How to Optimize Your Default Decisions
Here are a few strategies I have found useful when trying to design for default in my life:
Simplicity. It is hard to focus on the signal when you’re constantly surrounded by noise. It is more difficult to eat healthy when your kitchen is filled with junk food. It is more difficult to focus on reading a blog post when you have 10 tabs open in your browser.
It is more difficult to accomplish your most important task when you fall into the myth of multi tasking. When in doubt, eliminate options.
In the supermarket, placing items on shelves at eye level makes them more visual and more likely to be purchased. There are hundreds of Marketing strategies, which use visual cues to encourage us to behave a certain way ( that’s a blog post for another day).
Designing for default comes down to a very simple premise: shift your environment so that the good behaviours are easier and the bad behaviours are harder.
Designed For You vs. Designed By You
Default choices are not inherently bad, but the entire world was not designed with your goals in mind. In fact, many companies have goals that directly compete with yours (a food company may want you to buy their bag of chips, while you want to lose weight). For this reason, you should be wary of accepting every default as if it is supposed to be the optimal choice.
I have found more success by living a life that I design rather than accepting the standard one that has been handed to me. Question everything. You need to alter, tweak, and shift your environment until it matches what you want out of life.
Yes, the world around you shapes your habits and choices, but there is something important to realize: someone had to shape that world in the first place. Now, that someone can be you.
I hope that you found some value in this.