The seeking behaviors

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Photo by Drew Graham on Unsplash

When people are looking for information on a website, they usually fall into one of these categories:

  • Informed Seeking: “I’m looking up showtimes for Downhill.”
  • Uninformed Seeking:* “I’m looking for showtimes for that movie with Will Ferrell and that woman from Seinfeld. Or was it Friends?”
  • Browsing: “I want to see a movie on Saturday and I want to see what movies look good.”

We all do these behaviors at different times in our lives and in different contexts. In the same day you could look for part number P94355GB to fix a broken vacuum and also casually browse Netflix for a new show to binge watch.

Your interface should take all three into account and provide a combination of UI elements that can be used for each type.

A good search function helps Informed Seeking the most. They can type in exactly what they’re looking for and get the information fast. And if it’s a really good search, it can also help Uninformed Seeking when they don’t know exactly what they’re looking for but know enough keywords for the search to point them in the right direction.

Good information architecture and categories will help Uninformed Seeking narrow down their search and also helps Browsing users to see what the site offers, similar to wandering through a clothing store.

UI patterns like infinite scrolling and content sliders help those who are Browsing but can be frustrating to those looking for something specific.

Understanding what kind of seeking your users do most often will help you prioritize for that type of seeking.

If you’re designing an interface to help moviegoers buy movie tickets and you find your users know already what they’re looking for, then you should prioritize for Informed Seeking and Uninformed Seeking.

If you’re designing an interface to help people discover new movies they might not have heard about, then Browsing might be the behavior you should prioritize.

A content slider isn’t inherently good or bad. But it could be a bad fit for the behavior pattern of your users.

Asking “what kind of seeking does this UI pattern help?” will guide you to choose the right UI patterns for your audience.

Using this mental model has helped me frame some of the design challenges I’ve faced and allowed me to develop better solutions. I hope it helps you too.

* “Informed” vs “Uninformed” feels negative but I haven’t been able to think of a better term for these. I’m open to suggestions. Ping me on Twitter.