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Making the Complex Simple with Progressive Disclosure

Posted in Design, Design Thinking, Experience Design, and Service Design

So how do you make the complex simple? How do you accommodate a person’s first-time experience from their familiar routine from their advance experts needs? With progressive disclosure.

Progressive disclosure is an interaction design technique to help maintain the focus of a person’s attention by reducing clutter, confusion, and cognitive load by presenting only the minimum information needed for the task at hand.

How do you do that? First, you must understand the needs and goals of the people you are designing the experience for. Then you must put yourself in their shoes and walk through the interactions step-by-step thinking “what do I need to complete the needed task at this point in the journey and only this task” – removing, hiding, or minimizing extraneous information that clutters the needed information and may cause confusion. You progressively disclose only the information that is needed in every step.

Once you have design your experience for your first-time visitor then think about how your customer will interact with your solution when they are a regular customer. You can use progressive disclosure to reveal other parts of the experience to address less frequently used options. And the same is true for your experts – you can use progressive discloser to reveal more complex interactions.

Examples of progressive discloser include Google’s search. You go to Google, type in what you are looking for then click return. In the menu above your search results is “Search tools” – click that and another menu is revealed with “Any time” “All results” and more. Progressive disclosure is what makes Apple products so easy to use. Almost all their interaction contains the immediate information that you need with a ‘Show’ button that reveals more. Ever been to a Disney theme park? A big part of Disney’s magic is only showing the guests what they need to see when they need to see it.

Showing the steps of a process so your customer knows where they are, what’s next, and how much more helps. Showing a sample of what is next is helpful, too. Context-sensitive help, tips, and behavioral targeting are all ways to reveal only what is needed for the task at hand to help your customers grow and advance with your experiences.

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