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Thursday, Aug. 5, 2004 at 7:47 pm

Ahhhhh, the Smell of Information

By Persuasion Architects
August 5th, 2004

From Jakob Neilson’s recent newsletter Alertbox

Deceivingly Strong Information Scent Costs Sales

Summary: Users will often overlook the actual location of information or products if another website area seems like the perfect place to look. Cross-references and clear labels alleviate this problem.

Information scent refers to the extent to which users can predict what they will find if they pursue a certain path through a website. The term is part of information foraging theory, which explains how users interact with systems using the analogy of animals hunting for food.

Predators following a strong spoor are firmly convinced that they’ll find their prey at the end of the trail, and thus are less likely to be distracted and wander off the path.

Similarly, if users are clicking through a site hunting for specific products or answers, they’ll keep going as long as they continue to find links that seem to take them closer and closer to their goal.

Information scent can backfire if a strong attractor seems to be the answer, but isn’t. Read More.

Even if your site bursts with relevant content and products, if you don’t place yourself in your customer’s ‘hunting boots’, you will miss tremendous opportunities to convert them as the customer will only sniff out information on their terms, not yours. You may even drive them to lesser competitor that better speaks their language.

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