Chapter 11. Navigation and Search

“The nature of the query is an evolving one, rather than singular and unchanging, and the nature of the search process is such that it follows a berrypicking pattern, instead of leading to a single best retrieved set.”

Marcia Bates The Design of Browsing and Berrypicking Techniques for the Online Search Interface

Searching is commonly considered an alternative to navigating. Basically, a search coordinates a person’s keyword query with pages that contain that term or terms. Navigation, on the other hand, allows people to browse to desired content, providing an important overview of a site and helping people determine relevance. But are these alternate or complementary approaches?

From a user’s perspective, navigating and searching aren’t necessarily contrasting activities. People just want to find the information they need. Integrating navigation and search, then, better supports how people really look for information.

People aren’t naturally “search-dominant” or “link-dominant;” instead, whether a person searches or browses is situational. For instance, if you’re looking for the manual for your mobile phone on the manufacturer’s web site, you might search for the model number directly from the home page (a known-item search). But when you’re looking for a new phone to purchase on that same site, you might browse their products (exploratory searching). Information needs dictate the method of seeking.

This chapter considers navigation in the context ...

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