Progressive Disclosure

Introduction to UX Concepts

By Daniel Pape

Some websites feature thousands of different pages to explore, such as news, ecommerce or media websites. Knowing which page to present to users has a huge effect on the usability of the site, and progressive disclosure is a valuable tool for making websites that are easy to use.

The key concept of progressive disclosure is to only present a manageable amount of options to the user at each time. Based on how the user selects from those options you then present them the next level of options.

Here are a few tips on how to use progressive disclosure effectively on your site:

Use card sorting

Card sorting is a valuable technique that helps you build good information archetecture. Write down all of the different pages onto index cards and then ask users to sort them into logical groups. This will help you understand how users mentally group parts of the site to build your levels of site heirarchy.

Create a site map

Creating a site map will give a good mental model of how the different pages on your site are related. A site map is a document that shows how all of the pages of a website are linked together. Using the card sorting task is a good first step to creating a site map, as this will inform your different levels of grouping.

Obscure uncommon use-cases

There may be many options that are available for the site you’re designing for, but presenting many options to a user may create confusion and stop them from making a choice. If you can limit options to the most common use-cases it will make those user journeys stronger.

Give users an out

Although progressive disclosure is an effective way of managing complexity, it can sometimes make parts of your site hard to navigate too. By including an index page with all pages on or a search box you will give your edge-case users an easy way to navigate directly to the page that they are looking for.

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