Webstock 2008: Ambient Findability

by Luke Wroblewski February 15, 2008

Peter Morville's Ambient Findability talk at Webstock 2008 was half Information Architecture and its place in the user experience design process and half finding things in the future.

  • Information architecture is the structural design of shared information environments. Information architects organize Web sites so people can find what they are looking for. They have to rely on professional judgment in addition to science to determine the best course of action.
  • Designers should provide multiple paths to the same information: search, topical organization, audience organization, index, site map.
  • Pages should bubble up some sub categories so people get a sense of what is within categories. This increases the scent of information.
  • The word usability has grown until the term is almost synonymous with quality. But there are other considerations for great user experiences: useful, desirable, valuable, findable, accessible, credible
  • Findability is the ability to find anyone or anything from anywhere at anytime.
  • We are drowning in information. Which results in a poverty of attention. This is not a challenge to communicate louder. Is a challenge to make things findable.
  • In a world of more bigger haystacks, how do we make bigger needles? How can we describe the "aboutness” of objects and information?
  • What won’t help: artificial intelligence; information visualization; or map-based information seeking.
  • What will help: librarians and their metadata and organizational systems!
  • Tagging & folksonomy provides fast changing, dynamic classification systems. These learnings need to be fed into longer term systems like traditional information hierarchies. Be careful not to throw the old out when discovering the new. "The old (hierarchy) creates a tree; the new (folksonomy) rakes leaves together". Leaves quickly rot and ultimately become a tree. Hierarchies & categories are even emerging in Flickr (clusters).
  • The Web has turned everyone into librarians. Metadata has been set free on the Web –everyone can tag, sort, search, and more.
  • The search box has become ubiquitous in our lives over the past 5 years. Search is a process and one of the most important ways we learn.
  • On the open Web we lack structured data, so we are working toward automation of metadata to help us categorize content. In some examples people are contributing their time to help categorize as well.
  • We will need a lot more innovation in Search as the problem continues to get bigger.
  • Mobile contexts require an even stronger focus on findability.
  • The future of findability: start all searching from one box but end up on very structured pages.