By Eleanor Haas
"Navigating Search” was the
title the SIIA gave yesterday’s Brown Bag Lunch, moderated by Diane Burley, a
digital media consultant and advisor to Nstein Technologies. We learned about new directions being
pioneered by global publishers with millions of assets. “New Ways to Deliver Meaning – not Just
Online Content” might more accurately have described the program. The payoff for publishers is
significant. It’s all about revenue and
Focus on the visitor first and only then on the information and how it is
presented. Understand visitor needs,
interests and learning styles. Respect three key stages through which the
visitor passes – first, processing the information, then making decisions about
it and then executing decisions based on it.
Understand how sensory clues can be used to guide the visitor and how
the visitor’s memory and inferences can support the information-gathering
Use wayfinding principles to organize digital space. Wayfinding,
a process used for centuries by navigators, and more recently by architects and
other designers, describes how people intuitively orient themselves to a space
and navigate from place to place. In general, people focus on a destination and
follow what appears to them to be the best path. Architects and other designers assess
wayfinding options as a basis for improving the functionality of a particular
environment and making the space more comfortable for visitors.
edges, nodes, landmarks and districts – the terms used by designers to describe
spatial features for this purpose – were first coined by Kevin Lynch in his
book "Image of the City" (1960) to help designers describe and think
about how people experience space. The
same concepts are relevant to locating online content so that users can avoid
the avalanche of irrelevant information delivered by keyword search, discover
what they want and move on.
Think beyond the home page to treat each website page as the potential landing
page it is. Google drives more and more
traffic to pages beyond the home page, and these pages have too often been
neglected in the past and therefore failed to deliver a superior visitor
experience by reason of their design.
Connect multiple databases in ways that speed comprehensive search. Enable visitors to come up with closer to 100
percent of the information needed for a decision, not just the usual 40 percent
to 60 percent. This can require smart
connectors that enable a federated search across 6,000 databases, for example –
using technology such as that offered by MuseGlobal. Smart connectors add value for the publisher
as well as the visitor. For the publisher, they can increase revenue by an order of magnitude by speeding time to market for new products and significantly reducing the cost of support.
Use text mining to organize and categorize vast amounts of both structured and unstructured information. This permits publishers to cross-promote use of their content by enabling people
interested in Topic A to quickly find related Topic B – with the help of technology
such as that offered by Nstein technologies.
Content maps, which are beginning to replace traditional site maps,
facilitate this by displaying the taxonomy of concepts within each subject or
theme area. The goal is to make it easy
for visitors to infer additional knowledge about a piece of initial information
– an inference that, in turn, becomes a new piece of information.