Information As Choice Architecture

Posted on 10 February 2013 by Joseph

As explained by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein in their influential work Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness, structure is a critical element of good choice architecture, and becomes increasingly important as the choices become more complex. As an example, imagine choosing a paint color from the thousands of choices offered by paint companies if the colors were only offered in alphabetical order.

This is the same type of problem a newcomer faces when approaching existing documentation: they have a concept of what they are interested in (e.g. beige wall paint), but lack the vocabulary to find it, particularly as the volume information grows large (e.g. Benjamin Moore's color Kansas Grain). The choice in the instance of an information seeker is more abstract, of course. The decision they face is where to focus their attention to answer their question in the shortest amount of time.

As with a fan deck for paint samples, by introducing and enforcing a level of structure atop the information, an information seeker can be quickly directed to the concept they are looking for. By keeping headings and labels short and keeping information concise, a content creator can enable a newcomer to easily evaluate subtopics within a concept to retrieve their answer.

Of course, this is exactly what Silvi strives to do. Organizing information categorically allows for quick 'pruning' of unrelated choices (blues are not browns, dark browns are not beiges). By nudging content creators to keep titles succinct and content short, subtopics are easy to evaluate and absorb. By offering effortless rearranging of content, documentation can be kept up to date, and important concepts can be promoted. Silvi offers information seekers a better choice architecture for directing their focus.

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