Deferred Choices – Behavioural UX

Deferred choices behavioural ux for apps

Behavioural Pattern: Deferred Choices

Deferred choices describe “the decision to disengage from the choice task without selecting any available options.” [1]


User goal: reducing friction towards achieving the actual goal.


Whether someone wants to make a deferred decision depends on multiple factors, such as: desirability of results, the amount of variables and options involved and how aligned the impact of the decision is with achieving the user’s goal.

In other words: sometimes people can’t or don’t want to answer questions immediately. 


Deferring choices in UX

Often, websites and apps force users to make decisions that are not necessarily relevant to the goal. E.g. filling out a detailed personal profile might not be relevant for browsing a web shop.

Similarly, sometimes users don’t have enough information to answer certain questions. E.g. what server to host your newest project on.

In some cases this might just be annoying. However, based on my experience, it can also lead to leaving the app.

There are two main ways to enable a smooth user experience regarding deferred decision making. 


  1. Reduce the amount of choices until they become crucial.
    Evaluate your information based on need-to-have vs. nice-to-have. If people need to create a profile, reduce required information to a minimum. If possible let them try your app for as long as possible without creating a profile. 

  2. Clearly mark deferrable choices. E.g. by marking required fields on a sign-up form. 
    If you require information of your users, clearly mark which ones they can come back to later. If a decision (e.g. where to host a server) becomes relevant at a later point in time, deal with it then. Instead of creating a barrier upfront, you can create CTAs at a later point in time. Then, the user is also more likely to see the value of the decision. E.g. decide where to host your app before clicking “publish”.


Lastly, there is a UI/UX guideline called ‘Hick’s Law’ [2] saying:

“The time it takes to make a decision increases as the number of options increases.”

While it’s probably unsurprising, it is a good guideline to keep in mind when confronting the user with decisions. Ultimately, we (mostly) want to create efficient, smooth experiences, which is easier with less friction.


Users don’t always have the needed information or willingness to make choices early on. Reducing information to a minimum, clearly marking required decisions and coming back to deferred choices later can vastly improve user experience. 


  • Reduce upfront choices to a minimum
  • Clearly indicate what is required 
  • Allow people to return to deferred fields later
  • Allow people to experience as much as possible without making choices
  • Remember Hick’s law: “The time it takes to make a decision increases as the number of options increases.”