Can you really give a reader too much information?
The answer is undoubtedly yes. If you want to get a message across in the most effective way then you need to be aware that too much information will dilute your message and make it less effective. The thing is, how do you know when the information is too much?
The answer lies in knowing your audience. If you’re writing a technical review of a laptop then you can presume that the reader will have some knowledge about the product they are reviewing and you will need to provide plenty of technical information and images as this is what the reader requires. However, if you are writing sales information for a laptop then it may be that you don’t require as much information and should stick to the basics. For a novice, knowing that the laptop will run the programs they require, has the latest technology inside, and is a great price is enough. Too much technical information is very likely to put a novice laptop user off buying.
Information overload is certainly something you need to consider when writing web content. If you want to convert your audience then you need to know why they have visited the site and what information they are there to acquire. In many cases this is a lot less than you probably thought. If you are writing content for a site that offers a service then the audience will probably be looking to see if the service they require is being offered, if the person offering the service has credibility, what the service will cost them, and how they make contact to order the service. That’s about it. They don’t want to know how many years in business, how amazing the company are, or how many awards the company has. information overload is just as bad as not enough information.
The same applies to using graphics. Graphics are great for getting the message across, in fact they can sometimes get the message across better and faster than words alone can. But, unless they are relevant, and are used sparingly they will cause information overload and dilute the message you want to communicate.
Shannon and Weaver Model of Communications.
The theory about giving your audience too much information can be seen within the Shannon and Weaver model of communication. In this communications model, Shannon and Weaver state that the effectiveness of a message can be affected by something known as noise. The noise can be anything that interferes with the reception of the message by the intended receiver. If you have ever tried to have a conversation with someone in a noisy bar or restaurant then you will understand how hard getting your message across through all of the noise and visual interruptions can be. The ‘noise’ part of Shannon and Weavers model of communication does not have to be caused by sound, visual information can also be classified as noise. Something to remember when writing web copy or designing a web page.
If you’ve ever been to a boring college lecture before then you will know what I am on about. The first few minutes grab your attention, but then…too much information and your having problems keeping up, having trouble concentrating on the speakers words, and probably finding it hard to keep your eyes open long enough to get through to the end. Don’t let your written communications get like that. Keep to the point, know your audience, and NEVER overload your audience with too much information.