Information Overload User Experience (UX) topic overview/definition


Information Overload: Concept Definition

Information overload describes the excess of information available to a person aiming to complete a task or make a decision. This impedes the decision-making process, resulting in a poor (or even no) decision being made. When designing products (e.g., websites or apps), designers should be especially careful to ensure they prevent information overload from affecting the users' experience.

The term was coined by Bertram Gross, professor of political science, in his 1964 work, The Managing of Organizations. Information overload has been a problem throughout history, particularly during the Renaissance and Industrial Revolution periods. However, the dawn of the Information Age and access to powerful and low-cost data collection on an automated basis have brought us more information than was available at any other point in history. As a result, the problem of information overload is more relevant to designers than ever before.

Today, a crucial part of a user experience (UX) or user interface (UI) designer’s job is to ensure that just the right amount of information appears on a webpage or app screen—enough to make it relevant but not so much that it causes information overload. This is particularly salient because people may experience stress due to information overload. This stress was described as “information anxiety” by Richard Saul Wurman (information visualization pioneer and creator of the term “information architecture”). Wurman argues that information anxiety isn’t caused by the large amount of information in itself, but rather by the large amount of irrelevant information. Designers therefore have the task of designing information in such a way that it matches the information needs of users, a process that involves asking many questions. Nevertheless, by systematically identifying essential and nice-to-know material, designers can reduce the chances that information overload will spoil the user experience.

For your convenience, we’ve collected all UX literature that deals with Information Overload. Here’s the full list: