Facts summary: Information foraging

  • 1 Information foraging is a behavioral pattern

    Information foraging theory states that the easier it is to find websites with good information, the less time users will spend visiting those websites individually. They will mostly stay at the source of good information such as search engines. (See why are search engines becoming answer engines.)

  • 2 It was developed at the Palo Alto Research Center

    The Information foraging theory was developed at the Palo Alto Research Center (previously Xerox PARC) by Stuart Card, Peter Pirolli and colleagues.

  • 3 It uses the analogy of wild animals

    Information foraging uses the analogy of wild animals gathering food to analyze and understand how people collect information (online). Substantial data supports this claim.

  • 4 People want maximum benefit for minimum effort

    People are lazy by their nature and want maximum benefit for minimum effort. (See Maslow's hierarchy of needs to find out why people conserve time and energy. )

  • 5 Information foraging best concept is information scent

    Information scent says that users will continue clicking and engaging the website as they sense they're getting closer to their desired target. The information scent must be stronger and delivered faster with each click or else the users leave.

  • 6 Information scent in links

    In order for links and category descriptions to be used as information scents they must be explicitly described and they have to reveal what they hide behind. This is analogous to the animal hunt: on the crossroads there are many paths, but only one leads to the desired prey. 

  • 7 Made-up words and slogans aren't suitable for information scent

    Avoid using made-up words and slogans as information scent as they don't answer what lies behind them.

  • 8 Plain language works best for information scent

    Plain language works best for both SEO and as an information scent. This is because it matches what is in the user's mind the best and is most likely to appear in the search engine results page (SERP).

  • 9 Website's content should be beneficial and easy to find and process

    In order for a website to achieve it's goal, its content must be beneficial to the users and easy to find and process at the same time. Users will leave if the content is good but hard to find, or if it's easy to find but offers nothing of value.

  • 10 Showcasing content on the homepage is a good information scent

    For example of a good information scent, display sample content on the website's homepage. This way users can get a good sense that something they need will be easily found.

  • 11 When information scent leads to target, users are motivated to seek more

    After the information scent lead users to their target, they will leave the website but remain motivated to return to the source of quality content, usually the search engine.

  • 12 3 components that make users return more often

    Support short visits by offering quick answers (information snacks). Encourage users to return with newsletters or email alerts. Emphasize SEO by addressing user's immediate needs.

  • 13 Users make tradeoffs based on 2 questions

    As users do their cost-benefit analysis when looking up information, they ask themselves 'what benefit can I expect from the website' and 'what is the cost I will have to give' (mostly time and energy). (See an example of cost-benefit ration in long vs short articles.)

  • 14 Information scent should always lead to its target

    Information scent that doesn't lead to its target violates user's mental model for the websites. This should be avoided at all costs as it confuses and disappoints users.