Josh Shardlow Team : Web Production Tags : Tips & Tricks User Experience Content

Progressive Disclosure

Josh Shardlow Team : Web Production Tags : Tips & Tricks User Experience Content

Progressive Disclosure in web design is the art of gracefully deferring advanced or rarely accessed content/features to a secondary or tertiary level of the site interface.

So why do it?

Imagine you’re on a first date with someone you’re interested in. Kind of like visiting a website for the first time.

Much like a website’s visual design, you check out the appearance of your date. They’re neat, well-groomed and have no body odour – in short, you find them attractive. So far, so good.

And then they start to talk. And talk, and talk some more and . . . “Hold on - why won’t she stop talking? SHUT UP, SHUT UP ALREADY!”.  We’ve only just met and she’s telling me, in explicit detail, about her morning moisturising routine. Too much information, too soon aaaaand I’m out.

Too much information, too soon aaaaand I’m out.

We all like to discover things at our own pace. Having to process a huge amount of information in one chunk can be confronting, overwhelming and unenjoyable. This is where a carefully planned, progressive disclosure content strategy can keep your site visitors interested, increase their time on site and hopefully result in a conversion uplift.

So how can you make sure that the content you present users with is the right sort, at the right stage to ensure the relationship forms at a pace that suits the user?

At a very simple level, start by initially showing users only a few of the most important options and then offer a larger set of options on request. Take an e-commerce page for example. A primary product page probably covers the main product attributes and a secondary tab allows an interested potential purchaser to drill down deeper into the product specifications.  

In this case, the user isn’t initially alienated by a three page list of technical specifications that make the decision too hard for them to process. Instead they see a succinct summary, justifying why the product is right for them and offering them the opportunity to purchase right there and then. If the user is more particular, the information they seek is still available with a little effort on their behalf. All types of users are left happy.

From a content perspective. You might want to start your pitch with high level factoids that summarise key benefits of your product/services. From here, let the users click through to ‘find out more’ on the benefit or feature they’re interested in.

This next level of content might provide more detail, include some initial call to actions – i.e. ‘subscribe to our newsletter for great offers on products like these’ as well as chances to engage further through extended content like whitepapers or case study downloads.

Whatever the case for your product/service, you need to start thinking about the different levels of content and how they will be structured on your website at the prototyping stage. Content theme development – deciding on initial, secondary and tertiary content disclosure formats and then developing that content early is crucial. You don’t want to be left scrambling for content when you should be populating content and getting the site live.