Web service award recently issued a press release stating that the web is being flooded in 2008. This flood of information is caused by the demands for availability as well as the users’ demands for finding all information possibly needed, online. So Swedish websites are being flooded with information and navigation and structure aren’t coping with the problem. And so the users can’t find the information… Time to improve findability.
I believe something has been missed here. There is a big difference between just publishing your content online to make it available to users and making it findable. Could you really say your content is available when it’s not findable? When talking about search, I always like to use the quote: “If the user can’t find the information, it’s not there.” You don’t make the information available to users just by publishing it; you also have to make the information findable.
This also has consequences for search. I usually talk about the differences between enterprise search and web search; Enterprise search being more complex with more information sources, more complex information types, where information discovery could be the goal rather than information retrieval. That’s some of the reasons why enterprise search is in need of more complex functionality such as faceted search, categorization or clustering, query suggestion, tunable ranking etc.
Perhaps we have now come so far that “ordinary web search” also is in need of this functionality to get a grip of the vast amount of content available online? At Findwise we see a tendency for our customers to want more functionality in their search applications, in order to add more value for the users of their site.
In the end it all comes down to three questions (asked by Peter Norville in his Google Tech talk)
- Can our users find our website?
- Can they find their way around our website?
- Can they find our product services and information despite our website?
So, making information findable is not about providing a single way of retrieving information. Your site should be able to support several information retrieval models; browsing, searching and asking.