Information Overload on Government Websites


  • Anja Lotte Kastelic University of Ljubljana



The digital world is becoming an increasingly common source of information. With trends such as “e-government” and “open-government data policies,” the digitization of public information aims to improve government transparency, its accessibility and provide an opportunity for greater civic engagement.

With the rapidly increasing amount of online information, however, a new problem arises: information overload (IO). According to the information processing theory outlined in Lee et al. [1], individuals have a finite capacity for processing information, which is affected both by the quality and quantity of information as well as individual information type preferences.

Despite plenty of research into social networks and sales, government websites face unique challenges when communicating vast amounts of accurate information to extremely diverse users, often resulting in communication failures, dissatisfaction, confusion, frustration, which can worsen the opinion of the government. 

Previous research [1] divided people into visualisers (who tend to construct visual representations) and verbalisers (who tend to process information semantically, no matter the form or modality) and found that people tend to adhere to their individual strategies of information processing.

Results [1] show that people experience less IO when their type of processing matches the information delivery; that textual information causes bigger IO; that visualisers experience greater IO with textual information than verbalisers with visual information; and that a bigger IO is associated with a worse perception of a website's usefulness.

Research Directions

My aim is to research two gaps outlined in the core study [1]:

  • Does the purpose behind the information use influence the information type preferences on governmental websites?

Sanfey & Hastie suggest [2] that people tend to prefer pictorial material (infographics, charts) over textual information due to its easier and more concise perception. The reasons behind accessing the specific information could influence this.

  • Does the completion stage of a task influence the information type preferences on governmental websites?

Based on previous Liberman & Trope [3] findings, the authors of [1] speculate that visual presentation might be preferred for a task planned for the distant future (where the focus tends to be on key points, reasons, and desirability), while textual information might be preferred when a task is due sooner (when the focus is on concrete concepts, feasibility, and implementation methods). 

My research aims to contribute to the fields of communication and psychology as well as improve governmental websites, thus raising their accessibility and engagement possibilities for citizens.


[1] T. (David) Lee, S. Lee-Geiller, and B.-K. Lee, “Are Pictures worth a thousand words? the effect of information presentation type on citizen perceptions of government websites,” Government Information Quarterly, vol. 37, no. 3, 2020.

[2] A. Sanfey and R. Hastie, “Does evidence presentation format affect judgment? an experimental evaluation of displays of data for judgments,” Psychological Science, vol. 9, no. 2, 1998.

[3] N. Liberman and Y. Trope, “The role of feasibility and desirability considerations in near and distant future decisions: A test of temporal construal theory.,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, vol. 75, no. 1, 1998.