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  • Writer's pictureJP Favre

Imagine William Edmund Hick and Edwige Von restorff having a dinner together in this restaurant

This week i wanted to share with you a visit to a restaurant where i realized that UX is definitely everywhere… even in a menu at a restaurant.

So, today let’s imagine for a minute that William Edmund Hick and Edwige Von restorff are having a dinner together and that they meet in this restaurant. I will call the restaurant, Feijoada House for the purpose of this article and i do not want to share with you the real name.

Having said that, nothing wrong with what i am about to share ;) so if you need the name, post a comment below and i will answer.

We know that In the field of user experience (UX) design, there are a few key principles that have stood the test of time. Two such principles are Hick's Law and the Von Restorff effect, which can be easily explained using this dinner at a restaurant.

Hick's law in action

First of of all, Hick's Law. Hick’s law states that the time it takes for a user to make a decision increases with the number of options available.

Hick's law states that the more options are available to a person, the longer it will take for him or her to make a decision about which option is best.

In a restaurant, this principle can be seen in the menu. A menu with a small number of options allows customers to make a decision quickly, while a menu with a large number of options can cause indecision and frustration.

I can tell you that this menu had a large number of options and for me it was a real challenge to make my choice with so many options…

  • 22 Starters

  • 17 Main course with meat

  • 13 Main course with fish

and to finish, 12 differents desserts

So, what are you doing when you are facing such a situation ? for me it is easy, knowing that restaurant success begins with tasty food. i assume that they will be ready to answer that oft-heard question: “What’s your specialty?” . So when the waiter came i asked “what’s your specialty for the main course ?

He gave me 3 choices instead of 30 which allow me to quickly make a decision.. and it was the good one, the dish was great, even if, it was not yesterday if i close my eyes i can smell, taste the great piece of meat with a wonderful sauce.

So let’s keep in mind that a well-designed menu will or should strike a balance between offering a variety of options while still making it easy for customers to make a decision. This can be done by grouping similar items together, reducing the number of options, and by providing clear descriptions.

In a dashboard, this can be easily link with 2 things : Number of visuals & number of filters that you can find in a dashboard. Hicks Law is used to simplify choices and remove barriers in decision-making. If you have too many visual charts facing you, it will be difficult to keep your attention and it is the same with filters. As designers we need to work on this and make sure that we are only showing what is essential to do your main task and to fulfil your “value proposition”.

Von restorff effect or Isolation effect

Then The Von Restorff effect. The Von Restorff effect (from Edwige Von Restorf), also known as the isolation effect, states that items that stand out from their surroundings are more likely to be remembered.

The 'Von Restorff Effect' predicts that when multiple similar things are presented, the one that differs from the rest is more likely to be remembered.

In this restaurant, this principle can be also seen in the design of the menu. A menu that uses different font styles, colors, and backgrounds for different items will make it easier for customers to remember those items and once again to make a decision. At the end of the day when you are entering a restaurant is not for spending hours looking at everything and then leave.. you have a target in mind when you enter a restaurant… Eat ;)

In the restaurant i went and you can see the picture in this article, nothing is standing out.. not a single dish, not a single element, nothing. I can tell you that the impact on your brain is HUGE… for your brain it is the equivalent of “not receiving any information” because nothing is standing out so your brain does not make any different from one to another items.

Remember we are talking about a menu with plenty of items on the list so it makes it very hard to read it. So how could we apply this “isolation effect” to a menu. This can be achieved by highlighting the most popular items for example a specialty, or by using different colors to group similar items together.

On a dashboard, this can be used by changing the size of some elements to make them standing out. You can also highlighting some elements with color, etc.. the idea here is to make sure that you are giving “directions” to your user and helping him to find his way in your dashboard.

By keeping these principle in mind, a restaurant can create a user experience that is both efficient and enjoyable for its customers. A menu that strikes the right balance between options and ease of decision making, and that uses the Von Restorff effect to make items stand out, will lead to happy customers who are more likely to return.


In conclusion, Hick's Law and the Von Restorff effect are principles that can be applied to UX design in order to make it more efficient, and easy for users to navigate and complete their tasks. As you have seen with the analogy of menu, it is quite easy to implement this.

So now your practical exercise for the week is to look at your existing dashboards and imagine for a minute that William Edmund Hick and Edwige Von restorff are coming to see you and that you present your dashboards ? what will be their reaction ? happy ? sad ? excited ? please share your comments below.

Have a great week.


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