Recently I had an experience with a freelance client in the Medical education and re-certification field where I was asked to design concepts that packed as much information onto the proposed homepage as humanly possible. Aside from the obvious problems with this approach (the required use of small, even microscopic text, video tutorials side by side and in direct competition with textual information, etc.), this approach is fundamentally flawed.
We live in a society, and work in professions, that are rife with a problem unique to modern society: information overload. To use an analogy common in the Intelligence Business, the ability to glean information from sources packed to the gills with data is akin to drinking from a fire hose. Difficult, if not impossible. A page overloaded with data and link choices encompassing too much information (I’m reminded of the old Police tune by that name) leads only to confusion and lost users.
The trick is to find the balance between providing as much information a user can digest on a single page while providing obvious options to drill further down, or back up to higher levels of the site, for more, and to provide the clearest path when doing so. The answer? Careful information architecture, information design, and site structure. Within reason, and with a minimum of mouse clicks, the best designers and architects lead their viewers via clearly marked road signs to their destinations, rather than assume what they want up front and pack as much of it into their home page as possible.
This approach allows for whitespace and legible typography (critical to the user’s ability to devour the information they need both on screen and in print), as well as the kind of compartmentalization of data required for practitioners in all fields of endeavor, from real estate, to the law, to health care. As society, and the functions we perform within them, grow increasingly complex, the number of subdivisions within each discipline grow exponentially. The more we compartmentalize information in conjunction with meticulous site architecture and information design, the better we serve our clients.