In keeping with the spirit of this post, one may, in the immortal words of Prince Humperdinck, “Skip to the end” for the TL;DR version.
“What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it.”
In the era of smart phones, tablets and the ever growing capability to be “always-on”, one could be forgiven for assuming that the above quote was made in the recent past, but in actuality, it was 1971 when future Nobel Prize winner Herbert A. Simon wrote it for The Johns Hopkins Press.
For a fast growing number of us, the vast playground that is the internet is just a few finger taps away at any given moment and with it we can inundate ourselves with emails, shares, posts, tweets, pins and snaps along with a whole host of other things that probably end in “s”.
We can binge watch our favorite shows whenever we feel like it. We can purchase almost anything we want with the tap of a button. Hear a song you like? You can Shazam that thing and be listening to it on your favorite device in a matter of seconds. Don’t feel like badly microwaved hotdogs again for dinner? Fancy it up courtesy of the five billion recipe boards on Pinterest. Have a pressing need to know the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow? Ask the mighty Google and ye shall receive.
Add all of this, mostly self-inflicted, information bombardment to our ever more chaotic lives and is it any wonder that, more and more, the average attention span of people while online is measured in seconds?
Enter TL;DR, or “Too Long; Didn’t Read”, an increasingly common response whenever an online reader encounters a piece of information that isn’t easily digestible within a few moments. It also has become a moniker for the legions of comment trolls as a way of saying that a particular comment isn’t worth their time.
So what is one to do when trying to make a point online? The rules are pretty simple and they also happen to be the TL;DR section of this post:
- Keep key information up front to convince the user to read on.
- Don’t bury key facts, keep them easily defined and digestible.
- Use alternative presentation methods, i.e. icons, pictures, videos, etc.
- The end result is that the user gets what they need and want and no more.
Happy posting everyone.
Web Designer & Developer