Search Interface users


A (brief) history

Interface: a definition


+ modes of information seeking

+ cognitive load


+ usability testing


+ faceted searching

+ displaying results

Challenges for libraries

+ public libraries

+ academic libraries

The future/Conclusion


Users: Modes of Information Seeking

SeaCaptain According to Donna Spencer, there are four modes of information seeking--and, by extension, four types of information seekers (Spencer, 2006):

1. Known-item seekers

  • Know what they need
  • Know what words to use to describe what they need
  • Likely have a fairly good understanding of where to start looking

2. Exploratory seekers
  • Some idea of what they need to know
  • May not know how to articulate what they need in words
  • May not know where to start looking
  • Usually able to recognize when they have found what they need, but may not know if it is enough

     3. Seekers who don't know what they need to know

  • May think that they need one thing, but actually need another
  • Or, may visit a site without any specific goal in mind 
  • Require simple, concise answers to meet initial need; more detailed information may be sought in follow-up

4. Seekers who want to re-find

  • Looking for something they have already seen
  • May or may not remember where they saw it
  • May wish to retain their search
Morville identifies a strikingly similar set of four information seeking behaviours, using (amusingly kitschy) fishing analogies: Perfect Catch, Lobster Trapping, Indiscriminate Driftnetting, and 'I've seen you before Moby Dick' (Morville & Rosenfeld, 2007, p. 33-34). However, recognizing types of information seeking is less important, says Spencer, than acknowledging that "a range of modes exist" when embarking on interface design [my emphasis] (Spencer, 2006, p.1).

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Search Interface: In Your Face
By Lindsay Tripp and Neil MacDonald
LIBR 557: Information Retrieval Concepts and Practice
University of British Columbia, Vancouver BC
December 4th, 2009