We take recommendations all the time in our daily lives. You take the concierge’s recommendation when you go to the restaurant he mentions. You take your server’s recommendation at the restaurant when you order her suggested meal.
Likewise we take a website’s recommendation when we accept the default choice that has been presented to us.
A great example of this comes from Kiva.org. Kiva is a non-profit where you can provide a micro-loan to the working poor around the world. For example, you can loan money to Blanca in El Salvador so she can buy goods for her corner store. She sells those goods, repays the loan, and then you can loan the money to another entreprenuer.
Kiva really wants you to complete the loan to Blanca and other entrepreneurs like her. They don’t want distractions or roadblocks to get in the way of you completing that loan.
To help get you to complete the task at hand, Kiva uses the power of defaults.
Once you’ve decided to whom you will loan your money, Kiva shows you a defaulted amount that you can loan. In this case, it is $25.
This immediately answers the question: “how much should I loan to Blanca?”
The default sounds good so you move on to the next step.
Kiva also wants you to donate to their non-profit so they default an amount for that purpose as well.
All of these defaults are in place to propel you to finish and fund the loan.
By using defaults, the site eliminates one more thing you have to think about.
Defaults not only push customers to complete a task, they can influence the direction you want them to take.
Defaults are extremely powerful. People will take the default.
Carefully consider what you default when you present choices to customers. Are there any downstream consequences? Will you need to make more of the widget you default for purchase? Will there be more customer support issues for that particular product?
Map out the downstream consequences so that you can give customers a default that is good for both the company and the customer.
Try some defaults on your website. You’ll be amazed at the results.