Search Patterns: Design for Discovery by Peter Morville and Jeffery Callender (O'Reilly, Sebastopol, CA, 2010, www.oreilly.com, 192 pp, US$39.99, ISBN 978-0-596-80227-1)
Peter Morville is a founder of the information architecture field. He is the author of Information Architecture for the World Wide Web and Ambient Findability. His consulting clients include AT&T, Harvard University, IBM, Microsoft, and the Library of Congress. Jeffrey Callender is the design director of Q LTD, a strategic design consultancy with clients worldwide. Morville bills himself as the word person; Callender is the visual thinker. Their collaboration successfully integrates these ways of thinking.
Search, say the authors, is the biggest usability problem on the Web. We go to a website to find something—a fact, a product, background information, an old acquaintance, and so on. Often, what we thought we came for is not actually what we need. Search is a conversation in which we discover new things and ask new questions. How quickly and accurately we find what we need defines the quality of our experience. If we give up and revert to more costly options such as telephone or email, everyone loses. Yet that is what often happens when companies fail to use search technology effectively.
" … search is a wicked problem with no definitive formulation, considerable uncertainty, and complex interdependencies. Stakeholders have divergent goals and radically different world views. Requirements are incomplete, contradictory, and ever changing …"Unlike Google, most firms aren't structured to manage the high-tech, step-changing, cross-functional, user-centered challenge. There are too many hyphens. As a hybrid of engineering, marketing, and design, search creates too many openings for missing links … Why risk your career (and your weekends) on a problem that's so intractable?"We underfund and understaff search, and its poverty becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Users don't search now, because search failed then. Sometimes they browse. Often they bail."
• Incremental construction lets users start small and build.
• Progressive disclosure hides complexity until it is needed.
• Direct manipulation provides visible objects for users to interact with.