Online information-seeking behavior presents some unique problems and situations. Because linking from one source to another is simple and immediate, people can cover a great deal of information quickly. They tend to zigzag through online systems, moving from resource to resource, varying seeking strategies rapidly.
Marcia Bates, a professor at UCLA, likens online seeking to berrypicking. If you've ever picked raspberries or blueberries, you know they don't come in bunches. Instead, you have to collect them one at time until your pail is full. You also move from bush to bush as you spot even riper berries, changing your approach fluidly. Similarly, when searching for information online, the solution to the original question is the culmination of many steps. It's not an all-or-nothing process. People constantly evaluate and re-evaluate what the find for relevance to their information need. People berrypick online.
Within Bates' Berrypicking Model, browsing and searching are complementary and not mutually exclusive activities. What's more, information needs evolve as people seek information. New information encountered sheds light onto the original problem, which itself changes and becomes compromised. Online information seeking is more like a negotiation between the seeker and the system.
When creating navigation, web designers often assume people will take a single, direct path to the information they are looking for. They don't. Instead, users may enter ...