Information Architecture   «Prev  Next»
Lesson 7 Searching
Objective Explain Different Types of Searching

Website Search Functionality

Different Types of Searching

One useful feature of information architecture is the ability to search a site. However, not all Web sites need search functionality. If there is relatively little content or if users are all expected to have the same purpose and follow the same paths, then perhaps searching is not necessary. But if a site's content is dynamic, or if there are many different kinds of content, if the site is large, then a search function is useful.

How are searches different?

Since users have different information needs, it is important to decide what search options to offer them. Types of searching can be grouped into four main categories:

Four Main categories of Search

  1. Known item Searching
  2. Existence Searching
  3. Exploratory Searching
  4. Comprehensive Searching
known-item searching, existence searching, exploratory searching and comprehensive searching.
The Slide Show below will take you through an example for each type.

What is the difference between Exploratory Searching and Comprehensive Searching?

Exploratory searching and comprehensive searching are two different approaches to information seeking that are used in different situations and for different purposes.
Exploratory searching is a more informal and open-ended approach to information seeking that is often used when the user is uncertain about what information they need or how to find it. The goal of exploratory searching is to gather information, get an overview of a topic, and identify potential sources of information that can be pursued further. This type of searching is often characterized by a broad search strategy, a willingness to follow leads and serendipitous discoveries, and an iterative process of refining and expanding the search as new information is discovered.
Comprehensive searching, on the other hand, is a more structured and focused approach to information seeking that is used when the user has a clear understanding of what information they need and how to find it. The goal of comprehensive searching is to find all relevant information on a topic, covering as many sources as possible and using the most effective search strategies. This type of searching is often characterized by a well-defined search strategy, a focus on a specific set of sources, and a systematic approach to evaluating the information that is found.
In conclusion, exploratory searching is useful when the user is starting from a broad or uncertain perspective and wants to explore a topic and gather information, while comprehensive searching is useful when the user has a specific information need and wants to find all relevant information on a topic in a systematic and thorough manner.

1) Search Procedure 1 2) Search Procedure 2 3) Search Procedure 3 4) Search Procedure 4
Program 1 Program 2 Program 2 Program 2
    1. Known-item searching is used when the user knows the name of what he or she wants to find.
    2. Existence searching is used when the user knows the item exists but not its name.
    3. Exploratory searching is used when the user wants to find more information on a familiar topic.
    4. Comprehensive searching is used when the user wants to find everything available on a given topic.

    Known Item Search

    Where do the answers come from?

    Ideally, a complex site with varying user needs will support more than one mode of searching. Searching requires a database serving the site. This database may be owned, designed, and maintained by the company or it may be derived from a more comprehensive, public search engine, such as Excite.

    Question: When is it useful to include a search function on your site? When is it not necessary?
    Answer: You should include search function if the site has a good deal of information, which is sorted out into many different pages. If site users do not know the organization of your site, it may be quicker for them to find the information through a search engine. It may not be necessary to include a search function if the site is fairly small in size, or if there will be very standard and clear path through the pages of the site. As always, test with sample users. In the next lesson, you will learn more about information architecture strategies you can use in planning Web sites.

    Search Types

    Click the link below to read about more about search types.
    Search Types

    Planning Information Architecture - Quiz

    Click the Quiz link below to test your understanding of some of the planning requirements for information architecture.
    Planning Information Architecture - Quiz