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Information Architecture for the World Wide Web, Second Edition by Peter Morville, Louis Rosenfeld

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Chapter 3. User Needs and Behaviors

In the last two chapters, we’ve defined information architecture and placed it within the broader context of where, when, and by whom it’s practiced. But before we jump into the actual “stuff” of information architecture—the components that make up an architecture, the methodologies that drive its design, and so on—let’s first take a look at users. Information architecture is not restricted to taxonomies, search engines, and the other things that help users find information on a site. Information architecture starts with users and the reason they come to a site in the first place: they have an information need.

This is a truism, but there’s more to it than meets the eye. Information needs can vary widely, and each type of information need causes users to exhibit specific information seeking behaviors. Information architects need to understand those needs and behaviors, and their designs should correspond accordingly. There is no goal more important to designing information architecture than to satisfy users’ needs.

For example, if your site is a staff directory, looking up a staff member’s phone number is probably a very common information need among your site’s users; in fact, this type of need may describe most of your users’ finding sessions. When confronted by such a need, users will likely perform a search, and you’d be wise to make sure your information architecture supports searching by name. On the other hand, if your site helps non-savvy ...

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