Users navigate sites in different ways. The three most common are:

Browsing: the user doesn’t have a very specific task in mind, they’re looking around to see what catches their interest.

A junior policy maker regularly checks the Commission site to see the latest progress on various energy policies.

Searching: the user knows what they need and they go find it.

A business owner needs to comply with the new requirements for energy efficiency and searches for rules or checklists to help.

Discovery: the user finds something interesting they weren’t necessarily looking for.

The business owner discovers that energy is a major focus of the Commission and there’s a good chance that policy changes are coming, so she should follow the progress.

Search + discovery is a win-win for users and the Commission

Most of our users are searchers. They know what they need and they want to find it as quickly as possible.

This doesn’t mean they use a search box, necessarily. Most will use navigation and links. It just means they’re looking for something specific.

Facilitating this kind of navigation behaviour is our first priority. We want to help users complete their tasks as quickly and efficiently as possible.

But there are a couple of good reasons we’d like to encourage users to discover content they weren’t necessarily looking for:

  1. there may be other services and offerings they’re not aware of that are helpful
  2. the Commission also has the goal and responsibility to keep people informed about what we’re working on.

This is where discovery comes in.

The best place for people to discover new content is the place where they’re searching for the content they need. But there are some rules for ensuring it remains relevant and useful, and not spam.

What’s the best way to include discoverable content?

  • Make sure it’s contextually relevant to the main content on the page.
  • Make sure it doesn’t obscure useful content, or doesn’t require users to interact with it in order to reach the content they need.
  • Design it to look like the other content on the page. Don’t use banners or flashy colours to compete for attention. This decreases its visibility.
  • Be honest about what it is. Never try to trick users into clicking something they don’t want or need.

This post is part of our series on the User Experience for Europe.

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