ScentTrails: Integrating Browsing and Searching on the World Wide Web

Christopher Olston and Ed H. Chi


The two predominant paradigms for finding information on the Web are browsing and keyword searching. While they exhibit complementary advantages, neither paradigm alone is adequate for complex information goals that lend themselves partially to browsing and partially to searching. To integrate browsing and searching smoothly into a single interface, we introduce a novel approach called ScentTrails. Based on the concept of information scent developed in the context of information foraging theory, ScentTrails highlights hyperlinks to indicate paths to search results. This interface enables users to interpolate smoothly between searching and browsing to locate content matching complex information goals effectively. In a preliminary user study, ScentTrails enabled subjects to find information more quickly than by either searching or browsing alone.

Full paper in ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction, Sept 2003: [PDF]. Citation: [BibTeX]

Extended abstract featured in ACM Interactions Magazine