We love Fran Alexander, she's the Taxonomy Manager at the BBC and she publishes a lot of great articles on her site VocabControl: Taxonomy. And stuff.
The following is an excerpt from her posting on March 11th, 2012 about the differences between "search" and "browse". They are two very different, and very important, activities that are the backbone of every good digital asset management system. Fran does such a tremendous job explaining the differences between the two, we just had to share her post with you. We hope you enjoy it.
The Differences between search and browse
- Search is making a beeline to a known target, browse is wandering around and exploring.
- Search is for when you know what you are looking for, browse is for when you don’t.
- Search is for when you know what you are looking for exists, browse is for when you don’t.
- Search expects you to look for something that is findable, browse shows you the sort of thing you can find.
- Search is for when you already know what is available in a collection or repository, browse is how you find out what is there, especially if you are a newcomer.
- Search is difficult when you don’t know the right words to use, browse offers suggestions.
- Search is a quickfire answer, browse is educative.
- Search is about one-off actions, browse is about establishing familiar pathways that can be followed again or varied with predictable results.
- Search relies on the seeker to do all the thinking, browse offers suggestions.
- Search is a tricky way of finding content on related topics, browse is an easy way of finding related content.
- Search is difficult when you are trying to distinguish between almost identical content, browse can highlight subtle distinctions.
- Search rarely offers completeness, browse often offers completeness.
- Search is pretty much a “black box” to most people, so it is hard to tell how well it has worked, browse systems are visible so it is easy to judge them.
- Search uses complex processing that most people don’t want to see, browse uses links and connections that most people like to see.
- Search is based on calcuations and assumptions that are under the surface, browse systems offer frameworks that are more open.
- Search works well on the web, because the web is so big no-one has had time to build an easy way to browse it, browse works well on smaller structured collections.
- Search can run across vast collections, browse needs to be offered at human-readable scales.
- Search does not usually give an indication of the size or scope of a collection, browse can be designed to indicate scale.
Similarities between search and browse
- Search and browse are both ways of finding content.
- Search and browse can both be configured in a huge variety of ways.
- Search and browse both have many different mechanisms and implementations.
- Search and browse should both be tailored to users’ needs.
- Search and browse systems both require thought and editorial judgement in their creation so that they work effectively for any particular collection.
- Search and browse systems can often both be created largely automatically.
- Search and browse often both involve metadata.
- Search and browse behaviours may be intertwined, with users switching from one to the other.
- Search and browse may be used by the same users for different tasks at different times.
- Search and browse both offer serendipity, although serendipitous opportunities are often hidden by interface design.