Designing The Search Experience [Book]

Designing The Search Experience: The Information Architecture of Discovery
Tony Russell-Rose & Tyler Tate

This is an excellent and stimulating book!  I recommend it to anyone who wants a deeper understanding of how people search, and who strives to exploit this understanding in their solutions design.

The first part of the book, a Framework for Search and Discovery, is a well-referenced presentation of some behavioural attributes of information seekers, and different ways that they interact with information. It introduces concepts such as information scent, information foraging, and sensemaking, and follows this with sections on context and search modes.

This section has been consciousness-raising.  I have kept the framework in mind as I observed myself interacting with a variety of search tools; it has proven valuable in articulating my own behaviours and identifying how well (or not) my search tools support (or could support) these behaviors.

The second part of the book, Design Solutions, provides a wealth of attractively presented examples of user interfaces showing how the insights from the first part have been applied.  Some of the examples expose design decisions that we see every day in our experience with the large search engines. Others describe search interfaces that push(ed) the envelope in different directions.  Some of these no longer exist in the form presented.  Some no longer exist. But the ongoing struggle for improved search experiences is well represented.

So is this book for you?  If you’re looking for a paint-by-numbers book, afraid not. The struggle for improved search experiences is the theme of the entire book, and the authors are thoughtful practitioners and part of this ongoing struggle. If you share some of those characteristics, need to contribute in this space, and are looking for a quick journey to the leading edge, you will benefit greatly from this book.

By the way, from a coverage point of view, most of the examples come from search engines or consumer facing sites.  I personally work a lot in creating solutions for knowledge workers within an organization. The ideas presented in this book still apply.  In fact, with the ability to access our users, and the opportunity to define information structures tailored to their goals, I suspect we can meet their needs very convincingly.

Nice job!

There is a third part to the book on Cross-Channel Information Architecture which I haven’t read yet.