The information architecture of discovery.

Remember the Yahoo! Directory? It was a hand-built taxonomy that allowed users to browse and discover Internet resources. By categorizing sites by topic and location, it became the definitive map of the World Wide Web. But at the turn of the millennium, Yahoo! transformed itself from a directory into a search engine. The task of organising so many disparate items into a single coherent structure had simply become too overwhelming.

Search is ubiquitous

More than a decade later, this story is all too familiar. Online stores sell hundreds of thousands of items, social networks host millions of users, and Flickr hosts billions of photos. Navigation is no longer the future: search is the key to sense-making in the digital universe.

Yet despite the growing influence of search on our daily lives, relatively few non-academic books have been published on the topic. While there are dozens of titles about designing web navigation, those on designing search can be counted on the fingers of one hand.

That’s why Tony Russell-Rose and I set out to write Designing the Search Experience: the Information Architecture of Discovery.

A new book for a new era

For the last year and half we have been researching, drafting and editing; striving to transform our ideas and insights into a coherent narrative. To help maintain our focus we established three guiding principles:

  1. Integrated: theoretical frameworks for human information seeking should be tightly integrated with practical design solutions, helping readers understand what, why, and how.
  2. Holistic: individual design patterns should be related to the overall user experience, and search itself re-framed within the broader context of analysis and discovery-oriented problem solving.
  3. Readable: The tone of voice should be informal and approachable, and the narrative driven by examples.
The information architecture of discovery.

Thank You

But we haven’t worked alone. In particular, we’d like to thank Cennydd Bowles, James Kalbach, and Max Wilson for their heroic efforts in reviewing every chapter and providing invaluable feedback all along the way. We are greatly in their debt.

We are also very appreciative to those who contributed essays to the book: Ann Blandford, Karen Church, Rory Hamilton, James Kalbach, Joe Lamantia, Greg Nudelman, Louis Rosenfeld, Ian Ruthven, Daniel Tunkelang, and Martin White. They have all enriched the book with their expertise.

Thank you to Meg Dunkerley, Heather Scherer, Andrea Dierna, Rachel Roumeliotis, and the rest of the Morgan Kaufmann team for their ongoing support. We are proud of what we’ve achieved together.

Check it out

Designing the Search Experience is finally available in print. You can find more details at the associated website, along with a free sample chapter. Tony and I are pleased with the result—we hope you will be too.

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