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There’s no Wrong Way to Convey Information (except when there is)

Videos, infographics, articles, Facebook posts… we have so many ways to share information at this point. I firmly believe that the medium, channel, and content type should be determined by the user’s needs or behaviors. For example, emails are likely to be more successful than video when the user is likely to be in an office. This is more informative than making decisions based on stakeholder interests. With that in mind, I’ve written before about the value of steering clear of “let’s make videos” and instead thinking “let’s explain how to build a treehouse” and then choosing the best method for conveying that information.

Similarly, when focusing on UI, there are numerous interactions we can choose from. Our job as user experience practitioners and content strategists is to find, test, and finesse the best content medium or interaction to convey the information.

But sometimes there’s more than one two best way to convey something. What do you do then?

Finding the “best”

In a recent article on UX Booth, we explored the pros and cons of pushing people to use search boxes vs. encouraging them to browse on the site. We found that 95% of people browse, where only 5% of people are typically drawn to search. Yet the search bar is ubiquitous, and popular opinion is that we need it – why?

“Simply put, there are users who prefer search, and there’s almost nothing to lose by including it. More importantly, by letting the search-first minority of your users have their tool you’ll provide an escape hatch when navigation fails. It serves as a safety net for well-planned navigation, even among users who prefer browsing.”

Both interactions help some people. They’re each fully developed and allow for a different but related flow, without competing for attention or space on the page. The key to their joint success is in this lack of competition.

Holistic design

While the individual interactions and related content mediums are important, the experience is more than the sum of its parts. We need to look to the bigger picture, and ensure we’re not confusing our users with too many options. As long as we can provide options that feel distinct and fully developed, there’s no need to choose. But when the experience as a whole becomes cluttered, it’s time to make decisions.

Marli Mesibov

Marli is a content strategist with a passion for the user experience. Her work spans websites, web applications, and mobile. Marli is the director of content strategy at the UX agency Mad*Pow, and she serves as managing editor at UX Booth, a publication about all areas of user experience. Marli is a frequent conference speaker, and has spoken at conferences including Content Strategy Forum and LavaCon. She can also be found on Twitter, where she shares thoughts on content strategy, literature, and Muppets.

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