Chapter 3. Design for Finding

I’ve had thank-you emails from people whose lives have been saved by information on a medical website or who have found the love of their life on a dating website.

Tim Berners-Lee

In this chapter, we’ll cover:

  • Different models for how people look for information

  • People’s information-seeking behaviors

  • How we learn about these behaviors

Information architecture is not restricted to taxonomies, search engines, and the other things that help users find stuff in an information environment. Information architecture starts with people and the reason they come to your site or use your app: they have an information need.

This is a truism, but there’s more to it than meets the eye. Information needs can vary widely, and each type of information need causes people to exhibit specific information-seeking behaviors. It’s important that you understand those needs and behaviors, and shape your designs to correspond accordingly. There is no goal more important to designing information architecture than to satisfy peoples’ needs.

For example, if your information environment is a web-based staff directory, looking up a staff member’s phone number is probably a very common information need among your users; in fact, this type of need may describe most of your users’ finding sessions. When confronted by such a need, people will likely perform a search, and you’d be wise to make sure your information architecture supports searching by name. On the other hand, ...

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