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6 Types of Information Scent

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Information scent is the idea that people look for information much like an animal foraging for food. Scent is an analogy for the estimated probability that each information path will be useful. When the scent is strong people continue to follow an information path. If the scent becomes weaker they backtrack to where the scent was stronger and take a new path. The following are common factors that people use to smell information.


Following paths to places that you have found useful in the past. For example, following a link to a website that you know.


Looking for keywords related to your information goals.

Visual Cues

Visual cues such as elements that look like a link.

Visual Information

Visual information such as a photograph or diagram that indicates what type of information to expect along a path.


Structured information such as breadcrumbs, navigation and sitemaps that allow users to follow a logical path.


Paths that make a promise. It is common for the titles of articles and books to promise what you'll find inside. For example, "10 ways to improve your ..." promises to be a list of information.
Overview: Information Scent
Definition (1)
The idea that people use foraging skills to find useful information by following a "scent" that represents the probability that a particular path with be useful.
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