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Cognitive Accessibility Design Pattern: Avoid Too Much Content

User Need

I need to find it easy to identify the content that I need, and do not need. Information I need to know and important information stands out, or is the first thing I read and does not get lost in the noise of less important information.

What to Do

Keep the interface simple. Provide users with five or less main choices on each screen and remove unnecessary content. This can be provided via a simplified version, as an alternative that is generated in real time from the same code base as the main content.

Extra links that do not relate to the main purpose of the page should be limited to the footer section. Extra choices can also be hidden under a “more” link or other clear and descriptive titles.

How it Helps

Busy pages, too much text, too many images and too much other content can cause cognitive overload, anxiety and loss of focus. Keeping content down to a small number of important points reduces the clutter, calms the user, and allows for better understanding while aiding memory. For example, it can help slow readers or those with a short attention span, who may leave the page if it appears complex.

Simplified content and a consistent simple design helps reduce cognitive overload and decreases stress and mental fatigue. For example, a person with early stage dementia goes to their doctor’s application. There are five choices on the screen: appointments, ask your doctor a question, test results, approvals and more. Each option has an icon, clear text, and is separated by whitespace. In two clicks they have asked their doctor their question. They can easily select what they need without asking for help. More options are also available if they swipe left. However, they are unlikely to do so.

More Details

Avoiding long paragraphs, lots of choices, and non-meaningful imagery ensures those with cognitive and learning disabilities can concentrate on the important points being made.

Keeping to a few short bullet points and limiting to one or two images related to the main subject areas of a web site or service allows the user to choose whether to explore the site further.

The intent of this pattern is not to clutter the page with unnecessary information but to provide important cues and instructions that will benefit people with cognitive and learning disabilities. Too much information or instruction can be just as much of a hindrance as too little. The goal is to make certain that enough information is provided for the user to accomplish the task without undue confusion or navigation.



  1. A simple interface. The main feature is much bigger than anything else. For example:
    • A search engine has its name and a large simple search box. All other content is smaller, lower down, and the user does not notice it unless looking for additional features.


  1. Pages with unnecessary content. For example:
    • Too much text, long menus, and images set around long paragraphs of dense text. The message is lost in an overload of information.

User Stories and Personas

User Story



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