If you set good defaults, you (& your users) will build good habits

Setting up good default behavior is very important. In fact, most people never change the default settings for the things they use.

For software designers, this means investing time thinking about what you want to happen if nothing changes.

For example, this is why Google pays to be the default search in mobile OSes and browsers — and why Google invested so heavily in a mobile OS (Android) where they would automatically be the default search: Most users will never change their browser to default to another search engine.

At Exec, we spend time thinking about default behavior. Here’s one simple example: the first step of our cleaning booking process.

This is what it looks like the first time:

Exec Cleaning Booking Second Use.png

This is what it looks like after you’ve used us once:

Exec Cleaning Booking First Use.png

The difference is pretty obvious: The second time you use the service, we default to the home you’ve already cleaned. Most people don’t have multiple places they want to have cleaned, and so we save an extra 10 seconds for the vast majority of our users.

At a meta level, I’ve spent some time thinking about what things make good defaults for a company.

One of the things that almost every startup in Silicon Valley and San Francisco seems to buy into is providing lunch (and often dinner) for its employees. Having meals show up every day around noon means that team members are much more likely to have the default lunch at the office with their coworkers.

In turn, this behavior has benefits like serendipitous discovery and collaboration, increased group cohesion, and cost and time savings for the employees and company.

Recently, along with a few coworkers, I’ve replaced my sitting desk with a treadmill desk to try to stay healthier.


I discovered pretty quickly that walking eight miles a day (at one mile per hour) while working wasn’t something I was going to do.

However, the thing I appreciate the most about having a treadmill desk is that even if I don’t turn it on once during a day, it still functions by default as a standing desk, which is already way better for you than sitting!

What other possible default behaviors can you change in your app, service, or site — or in your work environment?

Justin KanJustin Kan is the CEO at Exec, a venture-backed startup based in San Francisco. His previous startup,, pioneered the live-streaming video space and gave rise to lifestreaming and the first crop of web video stars. This post originally appeared on the Kan’s blog.

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