Information Foraging: Scent of Information

This is some older work from Jacob Nielson:

Diet Selection: What to Eat

A fox lives in a forest with two kinds of rabbits: big ones and small ones. Which should it eat? The answer is not always "the big rabbits."

Whether to eat big or small depends on how easy a rabbit is to catch. If big rabbits are very difficult to catch, the fox is better off letting them go and concentrating exclusively on hunting and eating small ones. If the fox sees a big rabbit, it should let it pass: the probability of a catch is too low to justify the energy consumed by the hunt.

The big difference between websites and rabbits is that websites want to be caught. So how can you design a site to make your content attractive to ravenous beasts?

The two main strategies are to make your content look like a nutritious meal and signal that it's an easy catch. These strategies must be used in combination: users will leave if the content is good but hard to find, or if it's easy to find but offers only empty calories.

This dual strategy is the reason I recommend that you showcase sample content on the homepage (appear nutritious) and prominently display navigation and search features (demonstrate that users can easily find what they're looking for). Diet selection also supports the traditional advice against splash screens and vacuous content. These elements convey to users that they're in for a tedious ordeal that serves up only scrawny rodents as rewards.

Sent from my iPad

Posted via email from Pete's posterous

No comments: