Design for finding
Information architecture starts with people and the reason they come to your site or use your app: they have an information need.
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.
let's go fishing:
the four types of information needs
The perfect catch
Known Item Seeking
Sometimes users really are looking for the right answer. Let’s think of that as fishing with a pole, hoping to hook that ideal fish. What is the population of San Marino? You go to Wikipedia or some other useful site that’s jam-packed with data, and you hook in that number (it’s 32,576, by the way, according to the latest estimate).
What about the times you’re looking for more than just a single answer? Let’s say you’re hoping to find out about good bed-and-breakfast inns in Stratford, Ontario. Or you want to learn something about Lewis and Clark’s journey of exploration. Or you need to get a sense of what sort of financial plans can help you save for retirement. You don’t really know much about what you’re looking for, and aren’t ready to commit to retrieving anything more than just a few useful items, or suggestions of where to learn more. You’re not hoping to hook the perfect fish, because you wouldn’t know it if you caught it. Instead, you’re setting out the equivalent of a lobster trap—you hope that whatever ambles in will be useful, and if it is, that’s good enough.
Then there are times when you want to leave no stone unturned in your search for information on a topic. You may be doing research for a doctoral thesis, or performing competitive intelligence analysis, or learning about the medical condition affecting a close friend, or, heck, ego surfing. In these cases, you want to catch every fish in the sea, so you cast your driftnets and drag up everything you can.
i've seen you before
There’s some information that you’d prefer to never lose track of, so you’ll tag it so you can find it again. Thanks to social bookmarking and collection services like Pinterest, it’s possible to toss a fish back in the sea with the expectation of finding it again.