Wednesday, July 06, 2016

How People Look for Information

Finding Known Items

Know what you want
Have words to describe it
May have a fairly good idea where to start
Know that there is an answer
Know when you see the answer

Jump into a website to find out something, get the answer and then leave. The best design solutions for this behavior are search and A-Z indexes.


Have some idea of what you need to know
May not know how to articulate it
May not know the best terminology to use
May not know where to start looking

As you discover information and learn, the gap between your current knowledge and your target knowledge narrows. Links between relevant pages will help people move between things and build up knowledge. Search is not an ideal solution in this case.

Refining and Narrowing

This happens when you have a large number of items to choose and you want to narrow down to those that are of interest. You will usually have some criteria in mind when you start and you should be able to recognize products that meet that criteria. You may do some exploring at the start to learn about what is important and to set your criteria, then find a set of products and narrow down. Sometimes, this is followed by a comparison task. The most appropriate design solutions are filters and faceted browse.


Look at the similarities and differences to help you make a decision. The design interface for comparison must:

A very good understanding of what criteria and features are important to people
A very good understanding of how people make final decisions
Content with enough structure to display things side-by-side
A good filter, to let people narrow (if appropriate)

Getting a Broad Idea

This is about getting a basic information about a topic. A high-level overview of the main ideas, a summary or the big picture must be provided before detailed content. Summary of detailed content could be bullet points, diagrams or videos that communicate the main ideas easily. For example, wikipedia articles provide a good summary before diving into details.

Diving into Details

Create layers of information to balance not enough detailed information vs too much detailed information. Start with good overview information, add a layer for more detail and another for even more detail.

Discovering Unknown Things

You can help people discover interesting things they did not know existed. You business goal could encourage people to stick around - to sell them product they are interested in but did not know about. You need to understand the relationships between content items and show people related things. Provide links to them to capture their attention and make it easy to explore.

Keeping Up to Date

People often want to keep up to date with what's happening within an industry or topic but are not looking for a specific answer.


This mode is looking for things you have already seen. Ways to implement re-finding:

1. Bookmark managers like delicious
2. Saving items to a wishlist
3. Saving items without signing in

No comments:

Post a Comment