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Thinking about navigation of websites and other information artifacts tends to focus on providing users with effective ways of quickly getting exactly where they want to go (time-to-task-completion studies, click minimization, etc). But an important secondary aspect of human interaction with rich information artifacts involves serendipitous discovery; finding something that you didn't know you were looking for. The child who stumbles on "tatpurusha" while looking up "tatterdemalion" in the Unabridged has benefited from serendipitous discovery, resulting from the inefficient, and inherently serendipitous, navigation technology of a paper dictionary.

The Problem

Minimizing clicks, cutting down time-to-task-completion, improving the precision of searches, and other nominal navigation goods can as a side effect reduce the frequency of serendipitous discovery, since they reduce the amount of information the user obtains that is not directly related to getting to a known endpoint.

Sample Solutions

What allows the user to explicitly explore the space serendipitously, without doing a particular task (eg search).


Random links, such as:

Related links


Serendipitous Experiences


Should serendipitous navigation occur only at explicit user request? Presenting the user with fuzzy results and possible tangents might be annoying or distracting if the user in fact has some single goal in mind, and wants to accomplish it as quickly as possible.

How might serendipitous navigation beyond the RandomPage button be added to a Wiki?

There's a clash here with Tmesis (WhatIsTmesis) and HumaneInterface - SerendipitousNavigation encourages provision of scenic routes and information that is not immediately relevant, where considerations of Tmesis suggest a more focused approach.

Not sure what you mean. The ZoomingInterfaceParadigm mentioned in the HumaneInterface seems to provide some serendipity. Tmesis sounds like a human practice/ability that makes it okay to add a little serendipity-inducing 'noise', because people are able to skip it.

btw, "serendipity" comes from Serendib, an old Arab name for WikiPedia:Sri_Lanka.

CategoryInterfaceDesign CategoryNavigation


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