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#17 - Information Scent - Information Foraging III

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Article written by
Juan Jesús Millo

More about Information Foraging

To read the other parts on Information Foraging Series:

Information Scent

As we commented in the previous issue, predators, either the boar or the user himself, try to maximize the benefit:cost ratio, since at the moment of finding a signal or a cue, we calculate the value and the expected cost based on the information we have at hand.

These information patches (webs) contain a varied number of cues and other factors that will be decisive when it comes to see if we keep on digging information where we are, or we stop and go where this smell of relevant information is marking us according to our needs, usually represented in similar text to our objective.

Example of information scent

Let's take an example, if we are surfing on a website of good practices about digital products, and we want to know more information about the behavior of a module, and this website only offers us screenshots of companies that do well with a little information, we may not find links or cues associated with the behavior of the module we want to learn, and how it gives off such a weak smell, we will jump to other pages to find what we need, a design system repository or similar.

This essence or scent of information can be represented in multiple ways, such as headers, images, context, information above the fold...; if a user is looking for good practices information and enters a website and only finds screenshots with hardly any text, the smell will be weak (for this user) and he will go looking for other information patches.

We could say that according to this smell, the user will make the calculation of how probable it will be to find this information and how much time will have to be invested to get it. If in the previous case we add a tab with components involved in good practices, the smell will be much stronger for this target of users; in the case of animals, if the prey is very hungry but smells only a couple of rabbits, this smell will be weak and possibly will continue to look for other cues rather than sacrificing their energy to get little food.

This smell is given by several interconnected representations, the link's tag, the content that accompanies this link, the context of the link and its positioning, and past experiences of the user or animal, resulting in a strong smell (the user visits this link) or a weak smell (this link is ignored).

Continuing with the boar analogy, all of this would be the smell given off by the rabbit (label) in the middle of the forest (context) and the past experiences of the difficulty and cost expected when hunting this rabbit.

Information scent factors

Finally, we must take into account these last four factors when it comes to provoking a strong smell:

  • Label: it must always be clear and concise, never giving rise to doubt. A "See more" has a very weak smell in general.
  • Content accompanying the link: if this label is accompanied by an image or text that is not related to the label, the label will lose its essence. Use only representative images and not for their aesthetics.
  • Context of the link and positioning: the context of the link and where it is located gives us a certain essence, as it is not the same to use "Discounts" in the main navigation menu (we imagine that it includes all the discounts on the page) or the same label within a tab in " Jeans" (only trouser discounts).
  • Past experiences: if the user has already visited similar pages, the knowledge of how the navigation system works, the frequency of visits and his knowledge of the jargon are essential factors in predicting the benefit:cost ratio of his research.

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