< Back to blog

Browsing versus finding

Here's something I've noticed: Websites use different design methods for things they want you to see, versus things you want to see.

That is, if you visit Amazon to check the status of an order, that's something you want to see. But maybe when you get there, you see a product that interests you. That's something that Amazon wants you to see.

This concept might already exist, but I call this "browsing" design versus "finding" design.

When you're browsing, you're looking at whatever the website wants to show you, to see if there's anything interesting. Netflix needs to be good at this.

When you're finding, you know what you want to get to, before you even visit the website. This requires a very clear navigation design.

What I've noticed is that website use more imagery for "browsing", than for "finding". Which makes sense - they want to attract your attention to things you didn't go to the website to see in the first place, so they do it with images. Images draw the eye more than text.

A great example of "finding" design is GOV.UK's website. It's all text above the fold:

Gov.UK's home page

Here's Amazon's home page at the moment:

Amazon's home page

The screen is taken up by big images! And they're advertising something that Amazon wants you to see, and hopefully buy. The stuff you might have wanted to do before you visited is all stuck at the top in a small header bar, and your eye is immediately drawn to the images below, instead.

So, there's a method you can use by learning from this design: If the user wants to do something specific when they visit, make it easy to find. But if you want them to see something that they didn't know about, you need to make it distractingly obvious. Of course, this can stray into dark pattern territory, so be careful.

< Back to blog