Totally new to website design and information architecture, but I’ve found that gauging my level of “link anxiety” is a pretty accurate indicator of how well a site has been laid out.
You know the feeling. FOML is most common when you’re fielding an open-ended search, where you have a general sense of what you’re looking for but receptive to whatever you come across during the course of the search itself. Maybe you’re in the hunt for new headphones and debating Bose or Beats. Or maybe you’re a Spanish teacher looking for lesson plan ideas on Federico García Lorca.
The best sites not only quickly direct you to relevant content, they give you confidence you’ve exhausted everything they have to offer. There’s no link buried somewhere you might have missed with more pertinent information. If you sketched out the site’s organizational design, it would resemble a MECE tree as opposed to a sprawling spiderweb.
Some companies do a great job of mitigating (and profiting from) discovery anxiety through smart design. Amazon’s “Related Items” and “Customers Who Viewed This Item Also Viewed” come to mind immediately.
I think this explains why I’ve never warmed to the shopping experience on Etsy. For a site whose selling point is finding one-of-a-kind items, it falls short of its potential as a discovery tool. The categorization list is overwhelming and requires too much sifting on the part of the user. If I’m shopping for a friend who loves vintage clothing and accessories, where’s the best place to start? “Vintage,” “Clothing,” “Bags and Purses,” or “Jewelry”? And what’s included in “Everything Else”?