Search: The Most Disruptive Innovation of Our Time

Interview with Peter Morville, author of Search Patterns

By Sara Peyton
January 28, 2010

Peter Morville is best known as the founding father of information architecture. His new book, Search Patterns: Design for Discovery, contains a bonanza of screenshots and illustrations that capture the best of today's design practices and presents a fresh perspective on the broader role of search and discovery. Co-authored by Jeffery Callender, Search Patterns, aims not only to inform but also to inspire readers to make search better.

"Search is among the most disruptive innovations of our time," insists Morville, also the author O'Reilly's bestselling Information Architecture for the World Wide Web and Ambient Findability. "Search influences what we buy and where we go. It shapes how we learn and what we believe. And increasingly, for websites, interactive services, and mobile apps, a search-centered strategy is essential to success. Browsing fails to scale, even on the iPhone."

However, search is also endlessly intriguing, says Morville. "The diversity of interfaces and algorithms emerging from within the categories of web, e-commerce, enterprise, desktop, mobile, social, and real-time search and discovery is simply amazing. There is so much we can learn by looking beyond our category and thinking outside the box."

Yet, there's never been a future so unevenly distributed as the world of search and discovery is today. "At the cutting edge, the pace of innovation is staggering," adds Morville, whose pioneering work has been featured Business Week, The Economist, Fortune, and The Wall Street Journal. "There's so much going on in mobile, from multi-touch and gestural interaction to pattern recognition, location awareness, and augmented reality, that it's hard for even the science fiction authors to keep up. At the same time, we're often forced to use clumsy search interfaces that should never have escaped the 1990s."

That's why it's important to lower search costs. "We can improve our economy through greater efficiency and faster innovation. Search is fast becoming the interface to business, government, education, and health across physical and digital environments. It's changing what we find, where we go, and who we believe."

Search Patterns intends to help design teams to make search better through incremental improvement and radical innovation. Learn more and check out the writer's sampler here.

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