Display clutter: a review of definitions and measurement techniques

Hum Factors. 2015 Feb;57(1):61-100. doi: 10.1177/0018720814541145.


Objective: We aimed to synthesize the literature on display clutter by reviewing definitions and measurement techniques and to develop a comprehensive, ergonomics-oriented perspective on clutter. We provide guidance for the selection of measurement approaches that can capture the various aspects and effects of clutter on visual search in particular.

Background: There is agreement that clutter may represent a significant problem to operators. The challenge is to determine the ideal middle ground between excessive data and insufficient information. However, definitions of clutter vary widely, which explains the range of measurement approaches, including image-processing algorithms, performance evaluation, subjective evaluation, and eye tracking. It is important to understand the affordances of each technique and provide guidance for their use.

Method: We provide a systematic review of clutter definitions and develop a performance-oriented perspective for ergonomics research. Next, we present a critical overview of clutter measurement approaches. The benefits and limitations of each technique are detailed, and recommendations for best practice are provided.

Results: From an ergonomics perspective, clutter matters to the extent that it affects performance, particularly, visual search. A combination of measurement techniques can be employed in order to assess the performance costs stemming from the multiple aspects of clutter.

Conclusion: Display clutter is a multifaceted construct that is a problem when it results in performance and attentional costs. The assessment of these costs is critical and requires the use of appropriate and complementary techniques.

Application: It is important that the performance costs of clutter are detected reliably to be able to better support attention management.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Attention*
  • Computer Graphics*
  • Ergonomics*
  • Humans
  • Psychomotor Performance*