“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. ==================== About the Author: ==================== Pidoco.com 鈥?Interface Design, Wireframe Software, Wireframe Tools, Interface Design Software, Interface Prototyping, Interface Design Tool, Usability Testing and Digital Paper Prototyping. UI Prototyping, UI Design and Remote Website Usability Testing lead to an Improved Conversion!