Yes, No, Maybe…

6 07 2007

Jeffrey Zeldman wrote an interesting blog post a week or so ago on the problem of offering too many choices, especially in 5-star rating systems where users will invariably pick “3” because it’s neutral. To quote from his excellent post:

Three is the little bear’s porridge, neither too hot nor too cold. Three is neutral—a safe place to hide. Even in the virtual world, where nothing more consequential is being asked than an opinion, many people would rather equivocate than commit.

But present these same users with a four-star spread and you leave them no cover. Two stars out of four is not neutral. Neither is three stars out of four. Any star rating they choose will reflect an actual opinion. There is no place to hide.

His post reminded me of Kathy Sierra’s “zone of mediocrity” where, to paraphrase Kathy, she said that any passion (love or hate) about a product/piece of software/website is always good – what you don’t want are users who feel nothing, who are in the zone of mediocrity. When most users are in that zone, you can pretty much kiss your product goodbye.

Some of Kathy’s posts on this subject:


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