Too Much Content?

Posted by on Jun 10, 2010 in Technology | 2 comments

Data overload?

Data overload?

I’ve been spending some time on ESPN.com the past couple weeks (more than usual) checking out commentary about the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the NBA Finals, and MLB phenom Stephen Strasburg. I’m not sure it’s a great experience anymore and it makes me wonder: how much content is too much content? There is written, graphical, and video content on the average ESPN.com page. Each competes for attention and, invariably, only one can win out — at least in my brain.

Sometimes, depending on the article, I’m stopped dead by the auto-start video and then don’t read the article. Other times, as in the page at the top of this post, I jump to the article and start reading, realizing part way down that there is also a video feed — the audio of which I can hear, but for some reason, some way, completely missed the visual part. I became aware of this when something in the audio caught my ear and I switched from reading to listening, but my eyes continued to scan the words and I missed both what was said, and what I’d read. It was jarring because there was a distinct switch in my brain from reading to listening of which I was very aware.

I wonder if I should be able to both read and listen at the same time (I can’t and never have been able to — I did my homework in silence as a high-schooler). I either need to read or look/listen but I can’t do both, and I wonder if others find the same thing. One other thing that I’ve noticed on ESPN.com during this playoff season is that much of their content is strictly video, and I find that somewhat off-putting. I like to read, and consider myself a reader, and ingest much of my knowledge through words, more so than watching video.

I understand that ESPN is a broadcast outlet, and it has a wealth of ready-made, rights-controlled, content at its disposal. There is certainly something for every type of user on the site but at some point it gets too overwhelming and you’re left not quite sure what you just encountered because too much has been thrown at you at once. ESPN.com seems to me to be skirting the boundaries of what’s really possible for the human brain to process, or at least the human brain of a guy in his late-30s, who sits pretty squarely in the middle (well, OK, upper end) of ESPN’s demographic.

Am I just an aging anachronism, out of step with the evolution of the web, or are some sites over-stuffed and approaching some sort of content saturation point?

2 Comments

  1. Auto-play is the new ad in a pop-up.

    • Thanks for stopping by, I appreciate it.

      You’re right, good analogy — auto-play = popup!

      They certainly run a ton of 30s in their web video. I’ve never been a fan of auto-play, and recall from days of producing video ads for folks that we could never run auto-play video. The standards are changing, and I guess if it’s your content and your site you can auto-play. You’re a UX guru, what do you think about the experience?