Chapter 2. Understanding Navigation

“Data is stored: Information is experienced”

Andrew Dillon, Dean of the Information School, University of Texas at Austin

A man grabs the yellow pages and looks up the phone number of the local pizza delivery service. A scientist goes to the library to research her doctoral thesis using an online catalog. A woman searches the Web for beach resorts for the family vacation. These are all acts of information seeking.

Before beginning to design web navigation, you should take time to investigate how people look for information. The more you understand, the easier it is to structure your thoughts around solving design problems.

This chapter considers information seeking on three different levels:

General information seeking

How do people generally look for information? For simple fact-finding missions, information seeking may be straightforward. But for more complex problems, getting the information you need may be a long, involved process. This chapter briefly reviews a few key aspects from information seeking research and practice.

Seeking information online

How do people seek information online? This presents its own issues and challenges. The immediate availability of additional resources allows people to change seeking strategies rapidly. They don’t always stay on course and may wander from page to page. They then get “lost in hyperspace,” which is one of the oldest problems in a hypertext system design. You need to keep this in mind when creating ...

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