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Discovering the Unfindable: The Tension Between Findability and Discoverability in a Bookshop Designed for Serendipity

Makri, S. ORCID: 0000-0002-5817-4893, Chen, Y-C., McKay, D. , Buchanan, G. & Ocepek, M. (2019). Discovering the Unfindable: The Tension Between Findability and Discoverability in a Bookshop Designed for Serendipity. In: Lamas, D., Lozides, F., Nacke, L. , Petrie, H., Winckler, M. & Zaphiris, P. (Eds.), Human-Computer Interaction – INTERACT 2019. INTERACT 2019. The 17th IFIP TC.13 International Conference on Human-Computer Interaction (INTERACT 2019), 2 - 6 September 2019, Paphos, Cyprus.


Serendipity is a key aspect of user experience, particularly in the context of information acquisition - where it is known as information encountering. Unexpectedly encountering interesting or useful information can spark new insights while surprising and delighting. However, digital environments have been designed primarily for goal-directed seeking over loosely-directed exploration, searching over discovering. In this paper we examine a novel physical environment - a bookshop designed primarily for serendipity - for cues as to how information encountering might be helped or hindered by digital design. Naturalistic observations and interviews revealed it was almost impossible for participants to find specific books or topics other than by accident. But all unexpectedly encoun-tered interesting books, highlighting a tension between findability and discoverability. While some of the bookshop’s design features enabled information en-countering, others inhibited it. However, encountering was resilient, as it occurred despite participants finding it hard to understand the purpose of even those features that did enable it. Findings suggest the need to consider how transparent or opaque the purpose of design features should be and to balance structure and lack of it when designing digital environments for findability and discoverability.

Publication Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Additional Information: This is the accepted version of a conference paper to be published by Springer in Lecture Notes in Computer Science. The final published version is available at
Subjects: Z Bibliography. Library Science. Information Resources > Z665 Library Science. Information Science
Departments: School of Science & Technology > Computer Science
[thumbnail of Libreria (Interact 2019) - June 2019 final.pdf]
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