Developed at XEROX PARC in the late 1990s and was inspired by biomimicry (specifically, animal behaviour theories)

Animal ForagingInformation Foraging
PatchSite containing one or more potential sources for foodA source of information (e.g. website)
ForageSearch for foodSearch for information
ScentHow likely a patch will provide foodHow promising a source of information appear to user
DietTotality of food types that can satisfy hunger for an animalTotality of information sources that a user may consider useful

Rate of gain = Information value / Cost associated with obtaining that information (both actual time/effort and opportunity cost)

Bounded rationality is at play here

Obviously we don’t have perfect estimation for 1) how much information a patch contains and 2) how much time it will take to extract that information. This is where info scent comes in.

Things that contribute to scent:

  1. Perceived credibility
  2. Information density
  3. Length


Techniques, tools, and interactions, that maximize the utility of the information foraging. This can happen either between patches or within patches.

But, a good user experience involves web pages that are designed so that the user can get the maximum relevant information in the minimum amount of time.

Behaviour enrichments

  • avoiding context switching (page parking: opening multiple pages in rapid-fire succession to save them for later)
  • avoid reading the entire page but still getting the majority of information (F-pattern scanning)
  • typically ignoring banners and the right rail

Interaction enrichments

  • critically thinking about specific keywords for query
  • use of within-page search (ctrl-f) to quickly locate content