Design Vocabulary

I had a brief discussion over Twitter today with Dave Malouf triggered by a question tweeted by Dan Saffer:

“Is it safe to say FINDABILITY is regarding content, while DISCOVERABILITY is regarding functionality?”

I agreed with him, as long as visual design was being included as part of “functionality.” Dave, however, thought we were making an arbitrary distinction. The disagreement, as it turned out, was based on a contextual understanding of the use of these terms within Interaction Design and Information Architecture literature. I, and I assume Dan as well, based on his postulate, generally understand findability to be dependent on attributes of content, such as its structure, vocabulary, and metadata. These attributes make it easier or harder to find specific, desired information within a larger body. The term is most often used in relation to search and filtering of content. Discoverability, on the other hand, is more often used in reference to the discovery of functionality within a user interface. Dave did not have the same associated meanings with the terms, which rather surprised me, as I expect we have a fair amount of overlap in the design knowledge we’ve been exposed to.

This got me thinking about design vocabulary, especially in the context of the IxDn00b series I’ve started. There are a lot of terms, like findability, that didn’t used to be words, but were invented to allow us to more clearly discuss our domain. I’m going to begin a series here on DesignAday that will explore design vocabulary, from today’s technical jargon to our terminology from the origins of our trade. I think I’ll have fun doing the research, and I hope you will enjoy the fruit, and perhaps learn something.

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