Information density

At RedLaser, I’ve had a chance to offer some thoughts on design changes in future versions of the application. There are a whole host of challenges, but most of them seem to come back around to one key question: what is the right level of information density for mobile screens?

I try to place our struggles in the context of other big tech companies.

Twitter is all about information density. People try to jam as much content as they can into their 150-character tweets, and create content rich with links to topics, people, and blogs. Path appears to be heading in the same direction, heavily using overlays, icons, and layout to convey metadata and create a sense of context. Their corner menu is another great example of compressing content down — you can see it to the right.

Google has headed in the opposite direction. Their new Google Mail and Reader designs create enormous amounts of white space, and has received quite a bit of hate. There is an “information dense” design offered, buried in settings, but even this design doesn’t quite provide the same level of content available in earlier iterations. And these designs are carrying over into the search giant’s mobile applications.

My inclination is to follow in Twitter and Path’s footsteps, but all these companies have the advantage of heavy users–the typical RedLaser user probably uses the app less regularly than the typical Twitter users (note to self: confirm this)–which means they have a greater opportunity to train their user base.




I’m a senior product manager for OpenTable’s consumer products. I focus on major features, including our loyalty program, diner profiles, social integrations, and new business exploration.


3 thoughts on “Information density

  1. I think it largely depends on the utility of the app. If it’s designed to be skimmed, then dense is fine — our retina displays work just fine. Any time there’s buttons or navigation though, the size needs to bump up. Path has a small button in the lower left that works because you instantiate it with a swiping motion. The smiley face buttons always trip me up though.

    1. Will definitely from other apps. Probably won’t put too much work in progress stuff here, but we’ll see what the team’s policies are on that kind of thing.

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