I'd never heard of the expression 'cognitive overload' until very recently, although what it stands for is something that I have long been passionate about avoiding in the brands and solutions that I design and build.

The linked article is a perfect introduction to this important phenomenon and more crucially, alongside explaining why it matters, it offers some expert and really well-illustrated guidance on how to overcome it.  

It instantly had me mulling over and re-evaluating the product designs for the new business that I'm building( especially some of the features and functionality of our new platform), to cross-check whether we were at risk of undermining our desired customer impact by inadvertently making one of the mythical and dangerous assumptions that Bump's David Lieb identifies. 

I've always favoured building childishly simple solutions and experiences in place of overly complex or long-winded ones. It's not about 'dumbing down' anything, it's about ensuring that whatever you are explaining, marketing or selling, the way that you present it feels intuitive and obvious to your target audience. 

You want them to experience that 'of course, why didn't I think of that?' moment or 'well, now I know this, it's a no brainer' to select you or to do whatever you want the desired outcome of your interaction to be. 

And you want them to get to this position fast, happily, with confidence and willing either to repeat it, or in some other way to form a habit in relation to your product or service. 

Anything that slows down this outcome or worse, derails it, is something that we all know we need to avoid. And most of us go to the right lengths to remove all the obvious obstacles. 

But what about the ones that we inadvertently create? 

Cognitive overload is one of those cardinal sins that many of us may be making in spite of our best efforts to avoid doing so. 

I highly recommend that you read the linked article. For me, the big takeaways are to remember that:

1.) simplicity doesn't mean prescriptiveness: interpreting customer experience excellence to mean that you make all the decisions for your customers, and over automating their customer journey with you, can actually create alarm and distrust, not reassurance. 

2.) trying to be too different or too clever with your product / service features can actually risk disengaging your customers, not impressing them. 

The trick is to make new things feel obvious, familiar, even slightly ordinary, even if they're actually not. Keeping customers in a comfort zone can be a key factor in your longer-term success. 

By contrast to the outcome that they may be looking for, most customers are not looking for a eureka! or hugely involved/scientific experience to get there. It's the outcome they get that should feel special and of value to them. 

3.) always adding more features, gismos or interruptive elements may undermine your proposition and make it a lot less attractive to your customers. 

Habits and loyalty form best where the reason for using something is always clear, the experience is a very smooth and familiar one and the outcome is predictable.

4.) we're all impatient and distracted these days, but if you rush someone too fast through your brand relationship-building and sales experience, and you prevent them from feeling invested in it, then you're at real risk of losing their attention (and with it, their inclination to complete and repeat the experience). 

Regular use of customer focus groups while you are developing and then testing a new proposition are a great way to prevent all of the above from happening. 

What's the best takeaway from Lieb's advice? It's all valuable. The most popular message as far as our team is concerned is the advice from Lieb to test whatever you're introducing with the young, the old ...and the drunk! 

A few team 'field trips' to the pub are now being scheduled with glee..