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I am working on a part of a website right now. Let's just call it a Map for now. Every user has a map, which displays his or her interests as images in a grid. Quite obviously, the user can add or remove interests from his map. Right here is the problem. The user can either browse for interests using categories or search. I cannot change the column's width which is around 590px. The categories are around 12, laid out like a horizontal navigation. My current approach is keeping Browse as the default option and providing a link to Search and in the case of Search, providing a link to Browse. This approach doesn't just work. So, I came up with an idea of unifying the search and browse approach. The advantages are many. But, users don't always know everything. If someone asked you for your interests, you'd maybe fumble for a moment and come up with a maximum of 5-6 answers. That's not what we want. We want as many additions as possible.

Do you think is a good approach or not?

Also, sorry, I am not allowed to show any images of my work right now.

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Can you expand on what you mean in this context by; the idea of unifying the search and browse; users don't always know everything; and We want as many additions as possible. –  Roger Attrill Oct 2 '12 at 13:47
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Can you create a balsalmiq sketch of the key aspects of your design? That might help people understand the problem you are trying to solve. –  Gene Golovchinsky Oct 2 '12 at 15:35
    
@GeneGolovchinsky users can't post sketches directly into questions without a rep of 10, however you can upload your own sketch to Imgur or somewhere similar and someone will add that image inline to the question. –  JonW Oct 3 '12 at 16:13
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@JonW good point -- if we give the question another up-vote, he'll have a rep of 11 & can post the sketch here. –  Gene Golovchinsky Oct 4 '12 at 3:47
    
It sounds like your users would have a list (or tag cloud?) of interests and you'd like them to be able to add more by searching through a pre-defined "master list" of interests? If you could clarify your question or add a sketch of what you're aiming for, as suggested by @GeneGolovchinsky, it'd help us understand. –  SteB Oct 7 '12 at 7:39
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1 Answer 1

Users, how ever mysterious they may be, use the both techniques to find what thay need. It's an ongoing iteration of serach > browse > search > browse technique. So I would say they are very much unified in the concept of finding information which is the whole purpose of search/browse in the first place.

enter image description here

Peter Morville described this pattern in his infamous book IA for the WWW and the more recent book Search Patterns. As an IA myself I recomend both these books, since they are a good reference to the world of IA and the users consuming IA every day.

Without knowing you might also be aiming towards is the new Windows 8 style of things. From the beginning there is the start page with its different tiles - currently looking like this on my start screen:

Windows 8 Start screen on Windows 8

You see Outlook, Chrome, Spotify, Remote desktop and Command prompt. These are the apps I use the most. But if I want to write a document in word I search for it just by typing. Adding the three letters wor makes my screen look like this:

Windows 8 search result

After some two months struggling with the UI, I finally agree to use it. It works fast and smooth. But it takes time to learn. Probably there will be more of these UIs' in the years to come - but my guess it is too soon right now.

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The search functionality of Windows 8 is one of the things I've hard the hardest time with, but also makes a lot of sense. –  Simon Oct 20 '12 at 0:45
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