Information Seeking


Users need to find information related to a specific topic.


Primarily allow users to browse the information but combine it with more specific search tools that support other types of searching.


Use when

Basically, any site where users can get information by browsing a searching. In particular medium-sized sites can benefit from a more elaborate Information Seeking experience since the need for better searching mechanisms increases as the amount of information increases.


Users are looking for 'something' on the site. Sometimes they may know exactly what they are looking for but in other occasions, they do not really know yet. As users enter your site at the Homepage they can usually use the Main Navigation to start browsing.

When users are sensitized by what they see on your site, and are convinced that your site may have something of interest to them, a more general specific searching strategy starts. There are several different types of searching. The different types of information seeking depending primarily on the question whether or not the target is known:

Users may start their experience by selecting any of the above search types. While they are seeking information they may switch from one type to another. For example, a browsing search may be followed by a query or structured drill-down. In general the cognitive task of finding information follows the following steps:
  1. Assessing information sources, or at least the tools that provide the access
  2. Selecting the source/tool based on need and type of information seeking
  3. Formulate the information request
  4. Use the tool and evaluate results
  5. Re-assess information seeking type and go to 2 or stop when need is satisfied
Most sites offer at least some information seeking mechanisms. The Search Box is the most used one and depending on the complexity of the information on the site additional mechanisms may be chosen. It usually helps a lot to monitor the log file of the search engine to see what people are looking for. After analyzing the log file an appropriate additional mechanism may be chosen.


It is known from research than users have different types of search behavior (Canter1985). For each of type we can see that they are supported by a number of search-related patterns. Finding the right combination of search tools is of course the challenge.

More Examples


On Beyond Help
Making claims on domains
Canter, D., Rivers, R. and Storrs, G. (1985) Characterizing user navigation through complex data structures. Behaviour and Information Technology, 4(2), 93-102
Toward an Iintegrated Model of Information Seeking and Searching, by Marcia J. Bates

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1 comment has been added to this pattern.

Michiel Holsheimer, 12th May 2010
Thx! Very useful post

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