How to combat information overload

Andy Charters
.
August 23, 2023
Mindset & Growth

Designers should have transmitted data to the users of their designs frequently.

Information visualization designers, in particular, find themselves providing data to their clients repetitively.

Furthermore, it's critical to avoid "overload of information" while designing your designs, which is when you give too much users information, leaving them uncertain and were unable to make a decision.

An Overview of Information Overload

In his 1964 work - The Managing of Organizations - Bertram Gross, Professor of Political Science at Hunter College, invented the term "information overload".

bertram_gross_edited

In 1970, Alvin Toffler, the American futurist, and writer popularized the term in his book "Future Shock.".

future

According to Gross, information overload is defined as follows:

"Information overload occurs when a system's capacity to process information is exceeded".

Decision-makers intellectual processing capability is fairly limited. As a result, when information overload happens, it is probably that decision quality will suffer".

As early as the 3rd (or 4th) century BCE, the writer of Ecclesiastes 12:12 was complaining that there was "no end to making books".

Information overload has been a recognized issue throughout history, most notably during the Renaissance and Industrial Revolution eras.

In contrast, the dawn of the information age brought us access to affordable and powerful data collection tools on an automated basis that are setting a new standard for information collection.

In everyday life, managing information is not just a problem faced by rich people, it has become a problem that almost everyone faces.

Every day, we are bombarded with data from e-mail, websites, social media, mobile apps, and other sources.

The Sources of Today's Information Overload

Overloading ourselves with information can be caused by a wide range of factors, as many as the number of information sources available.

Modern information overload is largely the result of the following reasons:

  • We now have access to an increasing amount of historical information.

  • There is a lot of misleading, contradicting, and just plain wrong information out there.

  • There are no simple and direct methodologies for easy handling, making comparisons, and assessing sources of information.

  • Inconsistent structure and no clear indication of relationships between the various groups of information.

  • Massive amounts of new knowledge are constantly being made.

  • In many sectors, the pressure to generate and compete in the provision of information has resulted in a quantity over quality effect.

  • The relief with which information can be created, duplicated and shared online.

  • Information can now be received through mass media such as radio, television, print, websites, e-mail, mobile telecommunications, RSS feeds, etc.

A Design Approach that Avoids Information Overload

too-much

How do we make sure that our users do not suffer from information overload?

How can we designers assist in reducing the burden of information?

The following are some design suggestions for avoiding overload of information:

  • Assist the user with supporting information. If additional information is needed, make sure it is easily accessible to the user.

  • It is much better to give both sides of the story rather than only one side.

  • Clarify what the user is supposed to do with the information. What should they do? Why should they do it?

  • The user should be able to take action easily. If a task needs to be completed there and then, make it accessible.

  • Providing less information makes things easier to understand, so keep it simple.

  • Providing relevant information will reduce overwhelming the user.

  • To be effective, information must be clear. Simplicity and relevancy are good, but clarity is essential.

Keeping Ourselves From Being Overloaded With Information

avoid1

It is also important to ensure that we don't put ourselves at risk of information overload by following any or all of the following strategies:

  • Put all information in a queue and treat it on a regular basis. Don't feel obligated to deal with it immediately; put it to the side until you have some quiet time.

  • Utilize your e-mail box to filter information and make sure you only see the most important emails during the day. Utilize filters when searching Google to limit the amount of information you get. Go over only the pertinent and important information.

  • As a team member don't take responsibility for knowing everything; encourage your team members to specialize, and then rely on their knowledge.

  • When reading, only grab a few key points and proceed. In most cases, information consists of only a few key points.

  • You can ignore information without feeling guilty. This does not mean ignoring e-mails from your boss or clients, but do acknowledge that you cannot consume every bit of information available.

  • Do not be afraid to take action without having all the facts. We all do it sometimes, ask yourself, "what's the worst that can happen?" Once you realize that there isn't much to lose, follow your instincts.

SUMMARY

It is true that information overload can prevent us from making decisions or taking action because we feel we have too much to consider.

We can use some simple tricks to minimize information overload for the users of our designs and for ourselves.

This article offers tips for reducing but not completely eliminating the amount of information we and our users are faced with every day.

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How to combat information overload

February 16, 2024

Designers should have transmitted data to the users of their designs frequently.

Information visualization designers, in particular, find themselves providing data to their clients repetitively.

Furthermore, it's critical to avoid "overload of information" while designing your designs, which is when you give too much users information, leaving them uncertain and were unable to make a decision.

An Overview of Information Overload

In his 1964 work - The Managing of Organizations - Bertram Gross, Professor of Political Science at Hunter College, invented the term "information overload".

bertram_gross_edited

In 1970, Alvin Toffler, the American futurist, and writer popularized the term in his book "Future Shock.".

future

According to Gross, information overload is defined as follows:

"Information overload occurs when a system's capacity to process information is exceeded".

Decision-makers intellectual processing capability is fairly limited. As a result, when information overload happens, it is probably that decision quality will suffer".

As early as the 3rd (or 4th) century BCE, the writer of Ecclesiastes 12:12 was complaining that there was "no end to making books".

Information overload has been a recognized issue throughout history, most notably during the Renaissance and Industrial Revolution eras.

In contrast, the dawn of the information age brought us access to affordable and powerful data collection tools on an automated basis that are setting a new standard for information collection.

In everyday life, managing information is not just a problem faced by rich people, it has become a problem that almost everyone faces.

Every day, we are bombarded with data from e-mail, websites, social media, mobile apps, and other sources.

The Sources of Today's Information Overload

Overloading ourselves with information can be caused by a wide range of factors, as many as the number of information sources available.

Modern information overload is largely the result of the following reasons:

  • We now have access to an increasing amount of historical information.

  • There is a lot of misleading, contradicting, and just plain wrong information out there.

  • There are no simple and direct methodologies for easy handling, making comparisons, and assessing sources of information.

  • Inconsistent structure and no clear indication of relationships between the various groups of information.

  • Massive amounts of new knowledge are constantly being made.

  • In many sectors, the pressure to generate and compete in the provision of information has resulted in a quantity over quality effect.

  • The relief with which information can be created, duplicated and shared online.

  • Information can now be received through mass media such as radio, television, print, websites, e-mail, mobile telecommunications, RSS feeds, etc.

A Design Approach that Avoids Information Overload

too-much

How do we make sure that our users do not suffer from information overload?

How can we designers assist in reducing the burden of information?

The following are some design suggestions for avoiding overload of information:

  • Assist the user with supporting information. If additional information is needed, make sure it is easily accessible to the user.

  • It is much better to give both sides of the story rather than only one side.

  • Clarify what the user is supposed to do with the information. What should they do? Why should they do it?

  • The user should be able to take action easily. If a task needs to be completed there and then, make it accessible.

  • Providing less information makes things easier to understand, so keep it simple.

  • Providing relevant information will reduce overwhelming the user.

  • To be effective, information must be clear. Simplicity and relevancy are good, but clarity is essential.

Keeping Ourselves From Being Overloaded With Information

avoid1

It is also important to ensure that we don't put ourselves at risk of information overload by following any or all of the following strategies:

  • Put all information in a queue and treat it on a regular basis. Don't feel obligated to deal with it immediately; put it to the side until you have some quiet time.

  • Utilize your e-mail box to filter information and make sure you only see the most important emails during the day. Utilize filters when searching Google to limit the amount of information you get. Go over only the pertinent and important information.

  • As a team member don't take responsibility for knowing everything; encourage your team members to specialize, and then rely on their knowledge.

  • When reading, only grab a few key points and proceed. In most cases, information consists of only a few key points.

  • You can ignore information without feeling guilty. This does not mean ignoring e-mails from your boss or clients, but do acknowledge that you cannot consume every bit of information available.

  • Do not be afraid to take action without having all the facts. We all do it sometimes, ask yourself, "what's the worst that can happen?" Once you realize that there isn't much to lose, follow your instincts.

SUMMARY

It is true that information overload can prevent us from making decisions or taking action because we feel we have too much to consider.

We can use some simple tricks to minimize information overload for the users of our designs and for ourselves.

This article offers tips for reducing but not completely eliminating the amount of information we and our users are faced with every day.

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