3.4. Learning About Information Needs and
How does one learn about their users' information needs and seeking behaviors? There are a variety of
to considertoo many to cover in detail hereso we'll recommend a pair of our favorites: search analytics and contextual inquiry. Search analytics
involves reviewing the most common search queries on your site (usually stored in your search engines logfiles) as a way to diagnose problems with search performance, metadata, navigation, and content. Search analytics provides a sense of what users commonly seek, and can help
your understanding of their information needs and seeking behaviors (and is handy in other ways, too, such as developing task-analysis exercises).
Other user research methods you might look to are task analysis, surveys, and, with great care, focus groups. Ultimately, you should consider any method that might expose you to users' direct statements of their own needs, and when you can, use a combination of methods to cover as many bases as possible.
Finally, remember that, as an information architect, your goal is to do your best to learn about your users' major information needs and likely information-seeking behaviors. A better understanding of what users actually want from your site will, naturally, help you determine and prioritize which architectural
to build, which makes your job much simpler,
considering how many ways a particular information architecture could be designed. You'll also have great user data to help counterbalance the other drivers that too often influence design, such as budget, time, politics, entrenched technologies, and designers' personal preferences.