The beauty of the choice architecture

And the scary power that comes with that.

Helena Borges
3 min readJan 7, 2021

A few years ago I was in Austria being one of the UX designers responsible for building a brand new user flow for a checkout process in the largest online store for electronic goods in collaboration with one of the biggest Austrian banks. In the end, the user should have been able to have instant approval for a personal loan and complete the checkout process most seamlessly despite the bureaucracy around this topic and the heavy regulation of the banking sector. Quite challenging, right?

Photo by Oliver Roos on Unsplash

In the whole flow with several steps, external dependencies, a lot of validations, and technical restraints, there was one step that grabbed my attention. It was the ultimate step for the bank to cross-sell its loan insurance solutions. And it turns out to be one of the most crucial steps for their business model.

Although the whole project was challenging, innovative, and exciting, I find myself focus my effort on this single step. How wonderful is to explore different ways to present the loan insurance solutions to the consumers, and understand the impact on their decision-making? How powerful is to be responsible for consumer decisions? And, in the end, have the responsibility to affect insurance sales.

Cartoon by Scott Adams on Dilbert

That challenge led me to read the famous book “Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness” written by University of Chicago economist Richard H. Thaler and Harvard Law School Professor Cass R. Sunstein. That was, for sure, one of the most enjoyable books I ever read. And it was quite fun to discover so many things and put them into practice in my daily work. The book was a great kick-off for this challenge, helping me to identify the best approach to this problem. It also gave me useful insights to prepare all the research behind the MVP we were about to launch.

The magical checklist

It is powerful to be responsible for designing choices presentation, and I had to find the right balance between what is best for the user and what is interesting from a business point of view. Ultimately, we can manipulate consumer choices, although, it is part of my personal belief that I should avoid any dark pattern to fulfil my clients’ needs.

To guide me in my first discussions with the business owners about this topic and get some support to sustain my decisions, I collected a list of premises for this screen. I tried to combine since the very begging ideas from several different points of view. The business itself has clear goals for this step in the user flow. But it was impossible to put on the side the most relevant UX principles related to the choice architecture. On top of it, don’t forget the directly relevant behavioural theories that we may consider to put together the test options and define the pertinent metrics for analysis.

Stay tuned

It was a long journey in which I learned a lot about the architecture of choices, and that affected other professional challenges that followed. Therefore, I decided to share my approach to this challenge and what I learned on this topic.

In the next articles from this series, you will find out more information about what can influence consumer choices, and how I tackle that in my use case.


Keep reading the whole series!

The second article reviews the right number of options topic.

The third article explores how options descriptions can influence consumer decisions. In this article, you will find out how I approach the principle of having a default option and what that should be.

The fourth and last article in this series explores the architecture of choices.

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Helena Borges

UX Architect @ Mercedes-Benz. UX/UI mentor and educator. Addicted to travelling. Foodie & amateur chef. Proud Polaroid owner. Cat mom. Vinyl collector.