Information-seeking behaviours


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  • These aren’t mutually exclusive, but different ways of looking at finding behaviours
  • Amazon provide a simple search (and enhance it with typeahead function to help with spelling etc)
  • provide a big search box & little else
  • BBC A-Z is great for known-item finding. Much easier when you know you want ‘Doctor Who’ but don’t want to search or dig through navigation
  • The Top Gear car chooser allows you to set the criteria that are important to you and it sorts the results according to that criteria
  • Epicurious allows you to filter the recipes according to many facets – healthy options, course, cuisine, main ingredient, season, type of dish, preparation method. You can start wherever you like
  • And at every step you can refine, again choosing the next facet that you like
  • This type of search also allows people to filter the broader set of content. It is, however, done in just one step – the user can easily get 0 results (and not know why) or lots of results (and have to go and filter further)
  • TED (the conference) has an iPhone app that allows you to watch TED talks on the phone. 294 videos, and the only way of narrowing down is to search, which presumes you have a title for what you are looking at. This would be a perfect app for a simple filter
  • The choice tool is useful, and allows you to compare 5 in detail. Sometimes that’s enough, sometimes it isn’t
  • And the detailed compare view shows a lot of information
  • Shopbot allows you to compare price – you do the other research elsewhere
  • allows very simple filtering and a easy-to-read table of results
  • It is very hard to choose a hotel using wotif (or competitors) – there just isn’t enough information to go on. It assumes that price is the major comparison feature, which is not always the case. I have to dig in and out and memorise a lot
  • I’d like a digital camera – I’d like it to be small & light, take good photos, don’t need fussy features. Let’s see what I can find. This is a nice comparison interface. The little boxes are in the same sequence so are sort of easy to compare. The photo lets me see how compact the camera is, and a little description tells me about the camera.
  • This website doesn’t give me near enough information to compare (
  • The criteria are limited – I’d have thought the data has more facets than this, but maybe their research tells them these are the most important features
  • It is fairly hard to compare here – each phone shows different aspects. At least the icons are in the same sequence
  • And this is good, but it is really hard to read the YES NO down the screen
  • That’s funny – there are a whole lot of phones here that don’t meet my criteria. Some have VGA cameras, the top Samsung doesn’t have a camera or email
  • The comparison view is quite good – easy to identify differences
  • No details on feature compare, but good price compare
  • Compare screen has a lot of detail, and easy to identify
  • Virgin has no ability to choose features – just brand, price and appearance
  • On many wikipedia pages, the top few paragraphs give a broad overview. The remainder of the page contains much more detailed infomration with links to even more detailed pages
  • This is a good attempt at giving people the gist, but the copy is a bit too hard to read and formal (e.g. allowing informal collaboration and quick information sharing that provides relief from rising email and IM fatigue)
  • Very, very easy
  • Yelp has guides written by its users. This one is a recommendation for craft stores.
  • Youtube’s sidebar is full of related stuff you may be interested in. Foodnetwork packs a lot of related recipes into their sidebar.
  • Wikipedia’s related links provide lots of opportunity to find things you didn’t otherwise know about
  • is a service that helps you save things for re-finding later
  • Allhomes allows you to save houses to a watchlist
  • Amazon allows you to save books to your wishlist
  • When I open a new tab google chrome displays the 9 sites I visit most often
  • Amazon & ebay retain a list of items recently viewed. Ebay does it even if you aren’t logged in
  • Information-seeking behaviours

    1. 1. Information seeking behaviours
    2. 2. About me <ul><li>Freelance user experience designer </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Information architecture, interaction design, content </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Website, intranet, business applications </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Design, strategy, mentoring </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Workshops & writing </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Book: Card sorting: Designing usable categories </li></ul><ul><ul><li> </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Mini e-book - web content writing </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Rockstar press (soon) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Events: UX Australia </li></ul><ul><li>@maadonna </li></ul>
    3. 3. The information-seeking myth Search Browse
    4. 4. Many behaviours <ul><li>Known item finding </li></ul><ul><li>Exploring </li></ul><ul><li>Refining & narrowing </li></ul><ul><li>Comparing & selecting </li></ul><ul><li>Getting just an overview </li></ul><ul><li>Getting lots of detail </li></ul><ul><li>Discovering unknown things </li></ul><ul><li>Re-finding </li></ul>
    5. 5. Known-item
    6. 6. Known item finding <ul><li>You have a clear idea of what you want </li></ul><ul><li>You can describe it </li></ul><ul><li>You know where to start </li></ul><ul><li>You know when you have finished </li></ul><ul><li>Eg </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Looking for a particular book on Amazon </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Looking for a definition of a term </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Checking the price of a product you know about </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Checking a store has a product </li></ul></ul>
    7. 7. Known item finding <ul><li>Design solutions </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Search </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Index (e.g. A-Z) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Browse (as long as the path is short) </li></ul></ul>
    8. 10. <ul><li>Browse – use A-Z example </li></ul>
    9. 11. Exploring
    10. 12. Exploring <ul><li>You have a fuzzy idea of what you want </li></ul><ul><li>You can’t always describe it clearly </li></ul><ul><li>You know where to start </li></ul><ul><li>You know when you have finished </li></ul><ul><li>Eg </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Finding out how to make navigation work in wordpress </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Learning how our brains learn </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Looking for examples of a design solution </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Looking for new music </li></ul></ul>
    11. 13. Exploring <ul><li>Design solutions </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Search often doesn’t works as terminology is unknown (though it may be used as a starter) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Browse </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Variety of starting points </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Related links </li></ul></ul>
    12. 14. Refining & narrowing
    13. 15. Refining & narrowing <ul><li>There are many different products or items to choose from </li></ul><ul><li>User has some criteria </li></ul><ul><li>Refine & narrow to make the list of options smaller </li></ul><ul><li>Often followed by a compare task </li></ul><ul><li>E.g. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>You have thought about what’s important in your next car, but are not sure which type to buy </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>You have ideas for dinner, but not a recipe </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>You know what you want for your next phone, but have not chosen the brand/model </li></ul></ul>
    14. 16. Refining & narrowing <ul><li>Design solutions </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Filters/choosers </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Faceted browse </li></ul></ul>
    15. 25. Comparing
    16. 26. Comparing <ul><li>Compare similar items </li></ul><ul><li>May be within or across sites </li></ul><ul><li>Eg </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Comparing individual phones from one retailer </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Comparing phone plans across providers </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Design issues </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Need to know what features are important </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Allow easy visual comparison </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Need a flexible interface to allow appropriate # of products </li></ul></ul>
    17. 34. Filter & compare example <ul><li>Imagine you want to buy your next mobile phone. What features are important to you? </li></ul><ul><li>Sketch two interfaces: </li></ul><ul><li>One to narrow down the list of phones </li></ul><ul><li>One to lets you compare 3-5 phones. </li></ul>
    18. 45. Getting a broad idea
    19. 46. Getting a broad idea <ul><li>Someone just wants to get the ‘gist’ of the topic, not know everything about it </li></ul><ul><li>E.g. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Main findings from a research project </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Why is climate change important </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What’s this ‘twitter’ thing everyone’s talking about </li></ul></ul>
    20. 47. Getting a broad idea <ul><li>Design solutions </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Ensure summary material is available, linking to detailed </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Allow skimming & scanning </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Write in a simple, easy to digest way </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Use diagrams & case studies to give a broad view </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Include snapshots, ‘at-a-glance’ </li></ul></ul>
    21. 51. Discovering unknown things
    22. 52. Discovering unknown things <ul><li>Sometimes people start out with something in mind, but there is more than they know about </li></ul><ul><li>You know there is more than the user expects </li></ul><ul><li>Known item and exploratory tasks </li></ul><ul><li>Design solutions </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Suggestions (eg amazon) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Guided learning </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Related information </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Simple in-context links </li></ul></ul>
    23. 57. Refinding
    24. 58. Refinding <ul><li>Finding things you’ve seen before </li></ul><ul><li>Design solutions </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Services that only do this </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Explicit: sign in and explicitly save </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Implicit: sign in and implicitly save </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Implicit: save without sign in (see if ebay & amazon do this without being signed in) </li></ul></ul>
    25. 64. ??
    26. 65. <ul><li>“ I’m not searching as much as I used to be, but I’m finding more” </li></ul>
    27. 66. So what?
    28. 67. So what? <ul><li>Use your user research to see what people need to do </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Known item finding </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Exploring </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Refining & narrowing </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Comparing & selecting </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Getting just an overview </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Getting lots of detail </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Discovering unknown things </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Re-finding </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Design approaches for each behaviour </li></ul>
    29. 68. Questions & thanks <ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li>+61 (0)409-778-693 </li></ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul><ul><li>Twitter etc: maadonna </li></ul>