Discoverability is the ease with which things can be found. This is a consideration in the design of information environments such as a website and physical environments such as a supermarket. The following are the basic elements of discoverability.
Search is the ultimate form of discoverability. For example, a search engine can potentially identify a single item of information from billions of documents using a few keywords. The ability to understand natural languages to answer questions and discover documents without dependence on keywords. For example, an internet search engine that pulls up a reasonable response to the query "what was that supermarket in Florida that had all the good cheese back in the 70s?"
StructureEnvironments that have a clear structure such that people know where to start looking. For example, a library that has a separate section for children's books.
Categorization & SortingSorting things or putting them into categories such as the product categories in a supermarket.
NavigationTools that allow you to jump from one place to another.
DepthDepth is the minimum path that is required to find something. In the context of a user interface, this is the number of selections, such as mouse clicks, a user has to make to find what they need. It is a common design principle to avoid structures deeper than 3 levels. Extremely large collections of information, functions or things may need to go to 4 levels.
The amount of information per square inch on a user interface. Information density is a trade-off with depth. Complex user interfaces with many links and rich information require less depth than minimalist designs with sparse information and simple navigation.
PrioritizationPrioritizing things that users are likely to need. For example, navigation that links the six items that 97% of your users need.
ContextChanging prioritization based on context. For example, a weather app that links to hurricane preparedness information when a hurricane is forecast.Providing visual, textual and audio cues that indicate where things can be found. This implies the use of visuals that are meaningful to people as opposed to cryptic icons based on abstract concepts. For example, a supermarket that creates a sign with the flags of the world for an aisle dedicated to imported foods.
NotesIn some cases, poor discoverability improves business results. For example, a customer who comes into a supermarket to buy coffee might end up buying other items if they spend longer looking for the coffee aisle. This is an example of failure demand.
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