Log in Register

Preventing information overload and making smart choices with interaction design

For the first Tip of the Month of 2020, we’d like to present something very different from the details of terminologies and mappings, and that is how we support working with these terminologies and mappings from a technology perspective. Every day, people interact with web, mobile, and desktop applications to accomplish some task or purpose. Perhaps you might fill out a delivery and billing address on an eCommerce website while shopping or search for a location to stay for your next holiday on a short-term rental website. You probably don’t think much about how you interact with said application. That’s because you are guided through the process. The designers thought deep and hard about how you would interact with the application, so that you would not need to think about it, and the interaction appears smooth, intuitive and natural. This is called Interaction Design, which is the inclusion of the way users interact with a product or system during the design and development process.  NYFlyingLights400

In the information age, we are constantly bombarded with information. Not all information is useful and even less is useful at the very moment we receive it. We can easily become overwhelmed, or overloaded, with information. Information overload is the state of having more information than a decision-maker can cognitively process. When we experience information overload, our ability to make the correct decision can become impaired, not unlike when a doctor doesn't get enough sleep. Therefore, application designers need to think carefully about what information is the most important to provide users at each stage. They can prevent information overload by creating a system that only provides relevant, necessary information and makes smart choices on users’ behalf.

One example of a well-designed system is an eCommerce shopping experience. If a user searched for "lamp," it would be inappropriate for the eCommerce website to show the user other products they might buy, such as shoes and televisions. Showing products which are not relevant to the user’s search criteria might cause them to experience information overload and prevent them from choosing the best lamp. By only showing the user the most relevant information, however, the system enables them to make the best decision.

Another example is an electronic system that can proactively recommend a prescription for a patient with community-acquired pneumonia once the doctor has told the system the patient’s diagnosis. The system does not need to show the doctor all the information the system has stored, which would force the doctor to search through the information to correctly prescribe medication for the patient. Too much data might cause the doctor to experience information overload and make a mistake.

The terminologists on the HDD team work with huge amount of data every day, and the terminology management and mapping tools we build for them should help them and not impede them. By using principles of Interaction Design in applications that make smart choices on the user’s behalf when possible and provide only the necessary information at the most appropriate moment, we can prevent information overload and help make the terminology creation and mapping process efficient and accurate.