All writing, even UX writing, tells a story. Stories that make sense have a thoughtful ordering that makes sure you’re following every step of the way. It’s the same for UX writing.

Just like switching chapters 4 and 8 can confuse you to the point of putting down the book, a user interface needs to present information in a logical order.

And by logical order, I mean presenting information in a way that builds on itself and presents the right context.

That’s really all progressive disclosure is — sequencing information and actions across several screens in a logical order, so that it doesn’t overwhelm people. This is the pinnacle of the onion approach I won’t shut up about. It helps users get invested before getting to the nitty-gritty.

Progressive disclosure is important because it:

  • Improves the first impression
  • Lets users choose their own adventure
  • Makes the experience more efficient
  • Reduces the learning curve
  • Helps prioritize attention

Duolingo is an excellent example of progressive disclosure:

progressive disclosure ux example
Image credit: Justinmind

Before telling you how to write “El hombre” in English, it confirms you know that “El hombre” means “the man.” If it asked you both things on one screen, that’d be a lot to take in and internalize.

Another example of progressive disclosure are content previews:

progressive disclosure ux
Image credit: Shopify

Content previews provide the user with just enough information to help them decide if they want to dive deeper and read the full content. This lets the user decide which ones they want to actually open up and read.

To make sure your design using progressive disclosure:

  • Break larger, more complex pieces of content into smaller, more manageable chunks (hello, chunking)
  • Write down a list of everything you need to communicate. Then, outline it in a logical ordering.
  • Always spend time in user research to test for comprehension when you can

That's it for progressive disclosure in UX writing.

Keep learning — head to the next lesson, UXW#24: What makes bad UX writing.

Happy UX writing 🖖

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