Ambient Findability

A vector graphic depicting find-ability in a website
Graphic from

Findability is one of the biggest factors that influence user experiences with websites. When a piece of information is findable, it means it is easy to locate or identify. Website designers So what does Ambient Findability mean?

What is Findability and why is it so hard?

Findability is how well and efficiently a user can find something in a webpage, whether that be through a search bar or other drop-downs. Ambient Findability is pretty closely related, it implies that the findability of the page is second nature and doesn’t require much thought. It creates an atmosphere of ease around finding what a user needs.

Peter Morville claims that “Findability precedes usability… you can’t use what you can’t find.” And he’s right- findability is also one of the most thorny problems in web design. It’s due in part- to the inherent ambiguity of structure and the semantics of the web. Designers and users alike categorize and sort things in so many different ways, that discoverability is difficult at best.

Findability does not fit neatly inside boxes. Findability is more about connecting the boxes.

Peter Morville

Morville also points out how findability is the responsibility of everyone on the web-building team- from design to marketing, to engineering. “Everyone is responsible, and so we run the risk that no one is accountable.”

Most organizations have a lack of communication between these departments, which creates huge problems in the long run: Product catalogs can be beautiful, but they’re useless if they don’t have search engine optimization. Navigation systems can fall short if designers and architects fail to account for lengthy and tongue-tying vocabulary, and website search engines can return sub-par results, all because coders and designers didn’t collaborate to fine-tune relevance ranking algorithms.

A person at a computer working through website analytics and statistics
Photo by Campaign Creators on Unsplash

So how do we make it easier?

At the creator level, we must find ways to accommodate for all people, to promote curiosity and the courage to wander websites and promote cross-functional collaboration. On the other hand, sometimes we can’t help people- sometimes they’re idiots. Here’s a few ways to help that.

Search Engines

SEA (search engine advertising) and SEO (search engine optimization) are huge parts of findability for a website. SEO includes all the activities that ensure your website scores higher in the results of search engines, like Google and Safari. SEA (this is also called Pay-Per-Click) is the process of advertising directly on these search engines. They will shoe ads for your company in the search results above organic results.

The image below illustrates this- #1 is the SEA results, and #2 represents the SEO results.

A search result from Google depicting two ads (SEA's) and the top, and organic results below.
Image from Grid Marketing

Ideally, companies invest in both of these search engines. SEA gives direct feedback on keywords, so teams can learn what specific items are being search, and in turn, can be used to improve results. Companies can also test keywords in Google Ads for long-term SEO results.

In case you were on the fence about using these types of marketing, the most popular activity for US Internet users is search, 40% of people are using the web to make or purchase product, second only to email. They are also five times more likely to purchase product or services after finding a website through engines results or ads. Another statistic- over half of all Internet users will never go past the first to pages of search results. I know I never do, so it’s incredibly important to optimize search results.

SEO Pillars

Search engines update their algorithms every couple of days, so it’s a little hard to keep up with the most recent guidelines. There are, however, a few things that remain constant when talking about search engine optimization.

  • Crawlability: How easy is it for the search engine to find your content?
  • Website Structure: How is the search engine prioritizing your content?
  • Keywords: Pretty self explanatory- what is your content about?
  • Backlinks: How does the search engine understand that your content provides reliable and trustworthy information?

Now that we’ve got a starting place, let’s move on to how you can improve your websites SEO.

A team of website designers drawing out future posts with markers and sticky notes.
Photo by UX Indonesia on Unsplash

SEO Improvement

So you’ve gotten this far- you’re ready to start making your website more findable with these search engines, but where do you start? Here’s a list of the most common things you can change or create to give you a leg up.

  • Figure out the most common keywords and phrases that users from your audience (target or otherwise) are entering into search engines
  • Include those keywords and phrases into visible body texts, navigation links, page headers, titles, tags, and alternative texts
  • Create direct links from your websites home page and navigation to important destination pages to increase their popularity ranking
  • Simplify HTML code to fit web standards and ensure accessibility and ensure that key words aren’t lost

This figure display how an interested costumer engages in a active information search and the path they may take through the website and their decision making.

Problem Recognition to information search, Evaluation of alternatives, purchase decision, to post-purchase behavior
Figure 5-10. Five stage model of the consumer buying process (adapted from Kotler, p. 204)

Website Traffic Improvement

We’re back at it with another list- this time with ideas on how to get more people to look and stay on your website.

  • If you’re writing a blog, post your author information first near the header. This is known as an “Upside down Guest Post” A study found that having a link that lead to your author bio on the top of the page lead to 78% more traffic.
  • “Click to Share” Buttons are so important to your pages. Even icons that take users to your websites social media’s page will impact traffic across multiple platforms.
  • “Content transformation” Has the potential to increase traffic across different platforms too. We’ll use a blog post for this example- if you turn that post into a YouTube video or a podcast, that could gain you followers from a whole other content group.
  • Give Aways. Which sounds like a silly thing meant for influences on TikTok, but people love free stuff. Have users enter their email to add to your subscriber list, and offer options to share the giveaway on socials.
  • Use visuals. Long sections and big paragraphs of text can turn readers off- infographics are a great way to combine the two, and to bring color to your posts and sites. Lists are also a great way to go about breaking up text, list posts get 6x more shares than something like ‘how-to’ posts

That’ll give you a good start. findability and search engine optimization should be a shared endeavor, so many pieces of data can go into building it into your website. Plan ahead, keep it simple,

A computer screen displaying website analytics.
Photo by Carlos Muza on Unsplash

Fun Fact: Findability can also apply to print products! It’s not just for webpages- book chapters have clear hierarchy, textbooks contain subsections and table of contents, and newspapers are organized by content and topic. See if anything you own has good findability that isn’t attached to the web.


This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Anna,

    This blog post does a really good job at emphasizing the importance of Ambient Findability. I also think it’s important that you touch on how it can be tricky due to how people categorize and organize things differently. One point you made that stuck out to me was how the responsibility for findability goes to the whole web team. The blog suggests smart solutions, like using SEO, and it also does a great job at breaking down what it means. The suggestions used for better findability were really insightful too. To connect to your blog post this week, I decided to look more into findability and focus specifically on its impact on personal blogs. Much like larger websites, individual bloggers often have a hard time making their content easily discoverable online.


  2. Anna,
    I found this blog post very interesting. I like how you discusses the difference between search engine advertising and search engine optimization. I think it is interesting that these two methods are considered investments in findability on the web. Something that resonated with me was optimizing your own website in order to ensure that you are picked up by search algorithms. I found another blog which talked about the importance of website architecture. I learned that by ensuring that your website has an organized and simple flow will aid immensely in getting your website picked up by the algorithm. Using flat website organization is much better for SEO than deep website organization, all of your content should be just a few clicks away.

  3. Anna,
    Your post is incredibly effective at explaining the find-ability of websites. As for discoverability, because of my major I am very familiar with SEO tactics and I think you did an amazing job at describing them. Before your blog post I would have assumed that find-ability and usability of a web page are nearly the same thing, but now I know better. I didn’t realize that most websites users know exactly what they are looking for and generally how to find it because years of experience with the internet. It feels like second nature, but that’s what really distinguishes a poorly designed website. When these aspects that everyone typically knows about become unfindable, users don’t even want to use the site.
    Here is a blog post explaining all the negative effects of having a website with low findability rates:,opportunities%20for%20engagement%20and%20sales.

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