Progressive Disclosure

Once in a while I struggle with the simplest user interface design issues, and Googling for a suggestion is not as easy as you might think. An example is the path the user is taking, the information that story creates (start, directions, instructions, possible choices, direction taken, etc) and how to help the user remember these instructions.

Progressive disclosure is a principle I support and try to apply to every (web or app) design that I make. I like the challenge of the extra work this might take me as designer and developer, but it helps reduce the information the user has to remember, and actually gives the interface a more dynamic feel in a clearer overview. When the end-user typically doesn’t notice, you’ve done a good job (if that makes any sense).

The human brain, and I am talking about short term memory, can remember up to four items quite clearly. Everything above that is a plus for some lucky ones or simply gets lost. This means that as a designer you have to help the user with their journey. Why add more complexity and perhaps as a consequence lose their interest of focus.

A design isn’t just some Photoshopping around and slice and dicing it out to some static .html page. We’re in a world where we have the technology to present the user with content in an interface that allows them to automatically learn how to navigate around, and present them with the information they were looking for. Rather than forcing them to learn how to navigate in some unique way, forcing them to remember how to get back, or which steps to take to figure out again how to move forward to the next page with content.

The end user has to glance at the screen and shouldn’t end up querying the system deeper.

Reconsider whitespace, consistency, and progressive disclosure – for all your designs (be it for web or mobile).