Decision-Making And Desirable Products


David Hawdale is an Experience Architect with a background in experimental psychology and cognitive science. At ProductTank London, David unpacked the science of decision making and suggests that Product Managers can make their products more appealing by designing with the ‘moment of decision’ in mind.

System 1 and System 2

What do we know about what shapes our choices and how can we use this to build more desirable products? Decisions happen as the result of a subtle interplay between the conscious and unconscious mind, and they happen at the very moment that options have to be considered and discarded. Using Daniel Kahneman’s theory, David reveals our two minds; System 1 is fast, automatic, emotional, instinctive and makes frequent unconscious decisions with low effort. System 2 is conscious, deliberate, logical and crucially, it is effortful. System 2 may well be where we perceive the decision to be made, but frequently it merely endorses or rationalises feelings generated by System 1.

Wrong way! Illusions, irrationality and decision-fatigue

System 1 thinking is strong and easy to do. System 2 thinking is effortful and easily overridden by the unconscious, pattern-based thinking of System 1. David points to visual illusions and common behaviour in ultimatum games as examples of when System 1 over-rides rationality and leads to poor decisions. Using long-range data examples from our legal and healthcare systems, he highlights the problem of ‘decision fatigue’, where the strain placed on the brain by repeated demands to make System 2 decisions results in a dip in rationality.

Designing with decision-making in mind

System 2 decision making is energy-intensive and exhausting, so instead it’s worth considering how to design specifically for System 1. Products which engage System 1 thinking reduce user stress and effort by signposting, and either reducing or easing choices. David gives examples of visual nudges which seek to influence behaviour by making choices easier. By tapping into patterns, habits, defaults and frames, products that engage System 1 make using the product less effortful and less stressful. Product people can use this theory of decision-making to know, seize and affect the decisive moment and in doing so make their products more appealing.


Chris Massey has been marketing B2B software products to developers for 8 years, building communities, content and publishing platforms along the way. He's an editor for Mind the Product, as well as a fan of JTBD, JFDI, and JEDIs.


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