I am about to head to Portugal for a week, and I was interested in exploring different possible destinations in Portugal. I may not have much time for touring (I’m going to speak at the UXLX conference there), but if I did have time, where should I go? I have to admit to pretty much total ignorance about Portugal, the different regions, landscapes, and parts of the country, so I went to the official tourism web site for the country.
Give me a little bit at a time — The Portugal tourism site did an OK job of what is called progressive disclosure. This is fancy term that is used in the field of psychology to refer to providing information in increasing chunks of size and complexity.
We can only handle so much — Humans can only process small amounts of information at a time (consciously that is… the estimate is that we handle 40,000,000 pieces of information every second, but only 40 of those make it to our conscious brains). One mistake that web sites make is to give too much information all at once, like this web site from the Canadian government:
There is no chunking here, there is not progressive disclosure. It’s just all the information thrown on the page all at once. The result? You don’t read it, you just leave.
Feeding bits of information — The Portugal site was just OK when it came to progressive disclosure. New Zealand does a much better job. The New Zealand tourism site has multiple levels of disclosure, feeding you the information bit by bit. Here’s the first page on the regions of New Zealand:
where I see the overall map and names of the different regions. If I hover over one of the regions in the list then I see a thumbnail of information:
Continuing on with this idea of progressive disclosure, if I click on that region then I link to a page with more pictures and little more detail:
there is a big map and there are tabs to go to for more information. If I scroll down I’ll have details on the region:
This is a great example of how to use progressive disclosure.
It’s not the clicks that count (pun intended) — One thing I’d like to point out is that progressive disclosure requires multiple clicks. Sometimes you will hear people say that websites should minimize the number of clicks that people have to make to get to the detailed information. The number of clicks is not the important criteria. People are very willing to make multiple clicks, in fact that won’t even notice they are making the clicks, if they are getting the right amount of information at each click to keep them going down the path.
Think progressive disclosure, don’t count clicks.
Should I let the web site design influence whether I book a ticket? Not this time at least. This time I’m headed for Portugal, where I plan to use the Portugal tourism site as a case study in my workshop!
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