The Gestalt principle of Proximity stipulates that the distance between objects in a display affects our perception of whether and how the objects are organized into subgroups, (Johnson, 2014). A website can making meaningful attempts to organize information into groups and subgroups for ease of navigation, but can fail in implementing this principle by including massive amounts of unusable, and useless information that can confuse the user by making them wade through endless number of sub-categories for the information they need.
One usability test that would be beneficial in a scenario where the user is flummoxed with an overload of information to sort through, would be to test exactly how long a user is willing to weed through useless information in order to find what they are looking for. How much time, energy, and patience is a user willing to sink into an information retrieval session before they either give up and try and new tactic, or persevere until they are successful? My untested hypothesis would be that the longer a user searches without successful retrieval of information, the likelihood of that user returning to your website (at least with a recent positive experience in mind) goes down.
Users who experience successful retrieval of information, or who had a positive experience on a website or application with minimal frustrations, are more likely to continue their patronage of a website. On the other hand, a user who feels their time has been wasted, or who did not achieve their desired outcome, might result in that user leaving with an undesirable impression of the website and/or company. The Atlantic magazine forces the user to call their service line in order to obtain the education discount for students and teachers, while The New Yorker magazine allows you to sign up for their education discount quickly and easily simply by inputing your .edu email address. If brand loyalty has not yet been established, which magazine would more likely encourage a new subscriber?
Johnson, J. (2014). Designing with the Mind in Mind: A Simple Guide to Understanding User Interface Design Rules. Amsterdam: Morgan Kaufmann /Elsevier.