Cognitive overload is a phenomenon also known by the name of information overload. It occurs when the amount of information that you have available is so high as not to allow to focus the right option that allows us to continue on our path decision. It is not a new phenomenon, but it has grown in harmony with the progress and the transformation of communications.
The web has amplified what the press and television had anticipated. The mobile technology we are glued and multiplication of digital stimuli have done the rest. The journalist David Shenk in 1997 spoke for the first time pollution data to indicate the blanket of information that often end up confusing the user, rather than help them. In fact, the network are all over, and it has become increasingly difficult to relate to this all distinguishing reliable information from buffaloes.
The cognitive overload puts a strain on our information processing system that has to decide in real time what really worth the attention it. The short-term memory or as it is currently defined in the working memory (WM) or working memory then plays a fundamental role. Since the 50’s many studies began to test the limits. George Miller in 1956 with The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two: Some Limits on Our Capacity for Processing Information, coined the formula of the number 7. The scholar argued fact that our memory can process in real time from 5 to 9 information. Formulas magic aside, Miller’s law was challenged on the grounds that these values do not really coincide with the short term memory limits. This inspiration, however, gave way to further studies, which provided important guidelines on the communication and even web design.
When I think of the characteristics that make a modern and functional website cannot help but quote the work of Steve Krug. In his book, do not make me think the usability expert highlights how important it is to put at ease the user protecting them from unnecessary mental efforts. Regardless so the purpose of the site is always the goal to establish a contact. To do it in the best way is necessary to balance the cognitive load required for use of the platform minimizing the stress for utilize. Quality precautions you can take to facilitate the relationship between the interface and the person.
Below I will list a few helpful hints to go against the needs of those who use the web, the majority of users, in selective mode. A highly volatile short user who has no time to lose, it surfs from one content to another, and it occurs more often than you think to the button back of the browser.
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Beyond your site, you have designed or have provided in detail all its contents to the proper authorities. The user who unfortunately comes to us has no reference points, and in a matter of moments, you will find to try to obtain information. On one side it will spend its resources to understand the type of environment in which user landed, if the company, the product or service in question to make its case. The other will be faced with the operation of the platform, with menus and links. For this reason, the cognitive load to which it is subject is already high. Once the user has acquired a sort of familiarity with the first page will assume that all pages furthering the same graphics and operation setting. Remember that we are generally creatures of habit, and once you learn the operation on the web for something, we will repeat the behavior again without using energy to find an alternative solution.
Let’s face it, who does not like to have a wide range of choices available? But when it comes to see them all together on mocking the game becomes more complicated leading to cognitive overload. Many options involve many resources to allocate to choose the one that better meets our case. This goes to negatively affect the time component and therefore affect the usability. For example, in e-commerce of large dimensions can be problematic presentation of the various categories. Take then very carefully the design of the site menu and play with the related products to show based on the users choice.
When you are making a website should have clear what the communicative purpose not only of the entire project, but also of individual pages. Each side of the page it should offer a communication path properly and independently. Surfing from one link in the network very often, we land on the contents not passing through a homepage. To reduce cognitive overload should therefore always keep the focus on the breadcrumbs that led you on our page. Too many different content between them involve an inability of choice and a setback to navigation.
The time adjusts the user’s actions and certainly know how much this resource affects in a decisive way on the usability of the site. Given that the working memory is focused around specific targets limits the unnecessary actions in such a way that in a few steps and in a reasonable time the user may hit the target. For example enter the Google homepage, you will notice that the cursor is already positioned in the search bar and you have to do is type in your words. A small interaction unless they affect the rhythm of your navigation!