Disinformation Architecture

Posted by Admin on 11/25/2007

It’s not often I see such a good example of information architecture being used to obscure information that a business only reluctantly provides. In this case it’s the nutritional information for sandwiches from the fast-food restaurant Quiznos.

Here is the main navigation. Note the lack of a direct link to nutritional information (arguably one of the main reasons users might visit the site, and hence a clear candidate for a main navigation link). So you click on ‘menu’ to get the sandwiches…

You are presented with a list of subs. The ingredients are listed, but no nutritional information.

But wait! What’s that lurking at the bottom of the page? It’s a green link saying ‘Show nutritional information’. Nice place to hide the link:

If you click this link, it doesn’t show nutritional information. Rather it adds a ‘nutritional information’ link below each sandwich:

Clicking on the Tuna Melt link pulls up a pop-up layer. Initially you see the total calories of 500, with 33g of fat. Not too bad. Until you realize that you’re only looking at the small sandwich, and without cheese or dressing. Curious. Given the small vertical space this layer takes up one wonders why all 3 sandwich sizes aren’t initially shown.

If you click ‘large’ then the information for the small sandwiches disappears, and is replaced by the information for large:

But there is still one more step. You have to click the ‘+cheese’ and ‘+dressing’ checkboxes to get the full count. Two additions that no doubt you’ll be offered (encouraged?) to add in the store.

Finally you get the complete count. And when you see the numbers it’s no surprise they wanted to hide it. The single sub weighs in at 2090 calories; about the recommended daily amount for a typical adult. In one sandwich (Tuna too). And the 175g of fat is double the recommended maximum. That’s one serious sandwich.

If governments are providing regulations on label design for food products to protect consumers (surprisingly lax in the US, which seems to prioritize quantity over clarity), then how long is it before rules are in place for similar information online. And what form should those rules take?

Either way, I’d love to read the design brief the IA who created this tortured use case had to work to.

Sadly this practice is much more common than it should be. For example, I personally have once been asked to make the customer support phone number hard to find on a web site in order to encourage users to use the online support tools. The wireframe ended up having the phone number shown BIG at the top of the page, but then the best way to get me to do something is to ask me to do the opposite.

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