From Search to being Found

Posted on January 2, 2006 | Tagged as: , | 0 comments

As a source of information, the internet ranks higher as television, books, newspapers or the radio. That’s a fact. Another one is, that the amount of information in the word wide web growths rapidly from day to day. Search engines do a good job in helping people to find what they are searching for (or what the engines thinks they are searching for). But is the approach of “only searching” still enough?

People mostly can’t find what they really need. When you create digital content you need a shift of thinking. You can’t rely on the user entering the right query for his search, you must prepare your objects to be found. Enable the people to find the stuff they are searching for – especially your stuff.

Think of the good old libraries. With only ten books in it it’s easy to go in and search for one about ‘health’. With a hundreds or thousands of books you will spend some time sorting the results. But what if the library has a stock of 1 million books? What librarians do to help you out of this misery is tagging the books with metadata. They make the books findable. With digital content the provider has to adopt the role of the librarian.

This process doesn’t only inlcude marking your pages with hundreds of meta entries. Even more important is a solid architecture and arrangement of the content on your platform (in most cases the website, but with growing importance your mobile portal). On the system level, we can analyze how well a physical or digital environment supports navigation, browsing and retrieval. The Information Architecture of your objects and content becomes the important issue.

Peter Morville has coined a new term for that: Findability. It describes the capability of an object to be found through browsing or searching. It is not limited to digital media, but with the web as being the most important source for information, it plays an important role.

When dealing with the topic of poorly aranged search results and false Information Architecture the experts always come up with a trendy solution: Usability. But as Morville says, Findability proceeds Usability. You can’t use what you can’t find.

Findability is quite a new topic in the digital media space, but with the growing bunch of informtion it might become the new and most important aspect designers and developers have to deal with.

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