Interface design terms explained- Findability

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					“Findability precedes usability, in the alphabet and on the Web. You can't use
what you can't find.” - Peter Morville
What is findability?
The concept of findability is universal; at its most fundamental level the findability
refers to someone or something actively locating another someone or something.
It’s a simple notion (almost a platitude) and at the core of our experience as
humans on the planet, whether we are locating food, shelter, books, airline tickets, etc.
Findability can also be used as a more concrete term for a specific phenomenon in
computer science. In computer science, findability (a term widely credited as being
coined by Peter Morville) refers to a user’s ability to identify and navigate
websites and to find and retrieve information and sources relevant to his needs.
Issues affecting findability
Although the concept of findability is relatively straightforward, it is also deceivingly
simple. In computer science, findability is a complex and multi-faceted term that
encompasses the practices of design, engineering, and marketing relative to interface
design. Findability concerns itself with the following issues in an effort to make the
interface design easily navigable or usable and the interface design process fully
integrated and effective: Organization of the interface design Representation of the
interface design Web standards Search engine optimization User interaction and user
interaction design
These are just a few of the critical issues that contribute to findability within the web
design arena. Generally, you can optimize two aspects of findability: How well your
website can be found on the internet, and how well information can be found on your
website. The first is mainly determined by the qualities of your web-site’s
content and search engine optimization. The latter is mainly determined by the
organization and structure of your interface design and the user interaction design. If
you are developing a website with a new user interface and are interested in
optimizing your website’s ability to be located by prospective users on the
internet, then it is important to infuse your design process with adequate research
about the above mentioned topics.
Search Engine Optimization can help improve the findability of your website online
How you organize the structure of your website’s content as well as how you
implement web standards and conventions is important for search engine optimization
(SEO) because search engines can only react to standard representations. In addition,
the organization of your interface design affects its SEO ranking. Why is an SEO
ranking important? Because many users will use search engines to find your site. So
the issues that affect findability are important to understand. They are all
interconnected, which is why findability is so complex. For example, how you
organize your interface design is not only crucial for your search engine ranking but
also because organization directly affects how users find information on your website.
Usability tests can help determine the findability of your site content
The best way to determine the findability of your interface design’s content is
to conduct a usability test. Or several iterative usability tests for that matter. There are
many different usability methods you could employ, but one that is worth mentioning
is tree testing. Tree testing is a usability method that evaluates the findability of topics
on a website. It is sometimes referred to as reverse card sorting. Since most interface
designs are organized in information hierarchies (“trees”), tree
testing’s main goal is to see how well users are able to find information within
website hierarchies. Tree testing is a relatively simple method that produces valuable
user experience information. A typical tree test is organized in the following way
(using either software or index cards): Users are given a “find it” task
(e.g. look for the breakfast menu). Users are then shown a list of the top topics on the
website (as they might appear in the main navigation) They choose one and then are
shown a list of subtopics (such as in a sub-menu of a navigation) They continue
choosing, backtracking if necessary, until they have found a topic that completes their
task. The test conductor has the user repeat this process several times with several
different tasks After several users have completed the tree test, the results are
analyzed by the design and development team.
Tree tests are only one of many methods for testing findability. While tree tests are not
particularly useful for checking an interface design’s search engine
performance, they do help you to guarantee that your interface design is well
organized, and well organized websites tend to be easy not only to use but also for
search engines to index and hence for internet users to find.
Recap: Why is findability so important for website and interface designers?
Findability is ultimately important because, as Peter Morville says, “You
can’t use what you can’t find.” Web designers are perceived to
deliver better products when they can ensure that the websites they create can be
easily found by users via search engines. And if you are an interface designer you
know how important it is for users to have easy access to the contents of a successful
website. Findability may seem like just another of those “-ibilities” like
usability, accessibility, or desirability. But its impact will easily convince you and
your audience otherwise.
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