Findability and Information Architecture Primer

informationarchitected-ia-findability-primerIA Primer: Findability: The Art and Science of Making Content Findable

This report focuses on the dangers of assuming that search (enterprise search, federated search, application search, parametric search, etc.) is the answer to your findability problems.

Do you want to search, or find? Be careful what you build – you may be making your findability problem all that much worse for the noise that bad search can introduce.

Outline of the IA Primer: Findability: The Art and Science of Making Content Findable

  • Why Findability is Critical Today
    • Defining Findability
    • Distinguishing Findability from Search
    • Understanding the Findability Dilemma of Precision vs. Recall
  • Defining and Positioning Findability Component Technologies
  • Developing Your Findability Strategy
  • Planning Advice
    • Content
    • Context
    • Community



Why Findability is Critical Today

Content without access is worthless. With the advent and maturity of the Internet, what was once exclusively the domain of libraries and the private collections of enterprises is now a broadly understood issue.

Case in point:  Moments ago, I entered the word “Findability” into an online search tool that indexes the Internet. More than 543,000 individual bodies of content were retrieved. Eureka – Findability solved, right? With a simple search, I am able to retrieve “all” of that content. No. The rules of the game have changed significantly.
Different approaches and models for organizing and accessing content (e.g., file-shares and simple word-based query tools) are dated and no longer adequate. Providing access to content in a shared repository with a loosely defined naming convention all too often results in smaller sub-collections that are no more easy to navigate and retrieve content from with any degree of effectiveness and timeliness.

Applying simple search to the problem does not make the situation much better.  There are many reasons for this, all discussed in this report, but the simplest to point to as means of introduction to the issues is the scenario introduced above : A simple search for “Findability” on the Internet results in 543,000 hits found. While the search may narrow down the overall collection, the sheer volume of content renders this naïve form of selection useless. It does not provide a level of granularity low enough to meet my particular needs and perspectives.

While the example above is based on the World Wide Web, the situation within large organizations is not much better. The volume of content in any single organization is hardly near Internet-scale, but nonetheless large enough to overwhelm the user in a similar manner. It is irrelevant whether retrieval results in 543,000 documents found, or 543 found. The point is that both scenarios represent a situation that is unmanageable by the user. In addition, the ability to create content within the enterprise in myriad formats (e.g., e-mail, video, instant messaging, blogs, wikis, PDFs, word processing files, scanned images) far outpaces our ability to effectively find that content.

This Findability and Information Architecture Primer is a free download.

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