How to Protect Clients from Decision Fatigue

Published: May 8, 2023

This article was originally published on May 8, 2023; it was updated on June 5, 2023.

Decision fatigue doesn’t just affect your clients during that meeting where you asked them to make too many decisions. It also affects the success of all your following meetings, and hits your bottom line by making your projects less profitable.

Think about it. When your clients feel overwhelmed, even if they make choices, they are likely to go home and second-guess their choices. Now, not only do they have less trust in the process (affecting future meetings) but you have to spend more time on the same decisions, eating into your profit.

But there is a way you can reduce client overwhelm, build decision-making momentum, and keep your projects on track and profitable!

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Want to know how? (of course you do, you smart cookie!)

It’s called “grouping” and it’s awesome!

What is it?

Grouping is when you present “complete ensembles,” kind of like a personal stylist.

Instead of presenting just a top or just a pair of pants, a stylist puts an outfit together so you can see the elements in context. And that context is important if your client wouldn’t normally be caught dead in, for example, leather pants.

In design, instead of presenting a bunch of unrelated options, like: “Which tile do you like?” “Which paint color do you like?” “Which light fixture do you like?” “Which shower head do you like?” etc… you group all the options for each design concept into one “outfit”. This is especially important if you want your clients to take a risk on a really cool design feature – your equivalent of the “leather pants” of interior design.

Why is it important?

Decision-fatigue is real. It sets in when we’ve made “too many decisions” and our brains just can’t make any more choices.

When decision-fatigue will set in depends on lots of factors. When was the last time your client ate? Did they sleep well? What’s going on in their personal or professional lives? Did they just make a bunch of decisions about something before coming to your design meeting to make even more decisions?

Obviously you have very little control over most of the above, but the thing you can control as a designer is how you present your information.

And if you do it in a way that reduces the number of decisions your clients have to make then you’ll get more decisions made in a shorter amount of time, meaning you’ll have happier clients and more profitable projects!

How do we do it at Seriously Happy Homes?

The way we do it at Seriously Happy Homes is to develop three design options (two if it’s for a furnishings plan) as “complete outfits,” always based on our client’s inspiration images.

Here’s an example of grouping from a project we recently finished for a client’s kid’s bath (we’re so excited to say they chose group 2!):

decision fatigue

Grouping makes our clients feel like they are making ONE decision (choosing ONE tile) rather than individually choosing the wall tile, the floor tile, the faucet, the vanity, etc.

If we go back to the fashion consultant/clothing analogy for a second, we might not include details like earrings and lipstick color during the first presentation of our design concept, but we’ll make sure the three options include the “Big Items.” In fashion that might be the top, pants, shoes, jacket and purse. In interior design that might include the sofa, chairs, coffee table, side tables and lamps. We might wait on the throw pillows, art and other accessories until we know which of the three groups the client wants us to develop.

Grouping helps turn dozens of decisions into one decision that can then be refined by re-shopping a few elements, rather than hoping dozens of individual choices magically come together to create a beautiful design.

The result? Your clients feel less exhausted and overwhelmed, and feel like the design process is more fun and easy & they expected! Then you get emails like this:



But design should be fun! And if we develop the skills we need to reduce the feeling of decision-fatigue so our clients feel less overwhelmed, design can be fun, even for people who might be dreading the process.

—By Rebecca West, CEO of Seriously Happy Homes and author of the book Happy Starts at Home

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