An intriguing set of patent applications from Yahoo describe an information navigation system that can be used to view pages from a collection of information in some interesting ways.
One of the things that makes it interesting is that it provides some different ways to navigate around information online and offline that stand a little outside of our normal experience with web browsers. When we design or develop pages for the Web, or tweak or change those pages, we deal with an environment that many are used to working with.
As handheld devices become a more popular way of interacting with the online world, we will be forced to look at things in a slight different manner.
One of the listed inventors, Daniel Rose, has published a pretty interesting paper a couple of years ago that details some of the activities that we participate in when we search which is worth a look if you haven’t seen it before: Understanding User Goals in Web Search (pdf)
His detailed breakdown and explanation of different kinds of searches, start with navigational, informational, and transactional, and slicing them into smaller pieces, is a thoughtful look at ways that people interact with search engines. The new patent applications, discuss some other approaches.
A nonlinear response navigator allows users to move at variable speeds through collections of information without having to use either paging or scrolling techniques. The navigator provides a fun, intuitive feel while navigating data and provides a direct engagement interaction between user and data. The navigator enhances the normal browsing experience by visually enhancing the display based on the speed at which the user moves through the data.
By varying the levels of detail associated with items in an ordered collection of information, items may be organized in a way to emphasize details about item of current interest. Displaying varying levels of detail about items in an ordered collection of information involves determining a focus, and based on their relative location to the focus adding additional detail to other items displayed from the collection of information. For instance, a user browsing a web search results list typically only sees a few essential details such as the name, link, and brief abstract about each item in the list. Providing the user with varying levels of detail about each item in the list helps them decide to where they want to navigate.
Dynamically suggested information helps users navigate collections of information and the underlying reference items in the collections with a reduced need to perform search queries. For example, a user browsing an Internet sports site might be shown dynamically generated links to fantasy sports websites, sports and team message boards, and other sports-related sites. Clicking on a dynamically generated link, such as a fantasy sports website link, redirects the user to a new site. When the user arrives at the new site, the dynamically generated links and any other suggested information are automatically updated.
Audio cues often convey different information to users that video cues do not. Audio feedback techniques are provided to convey audio cues about navigable data. Audio cues associated with a collection may indicate a variety of characteristics about items in the collection.
This navigation program sounds like it would be fun to use. Reading through these documents made me realize how reliant we are on the browser interfaces that we use presently. Chances are good that those will evolve in time. The question is, what direction will they take?