Welcome to the Search Terminology series! In this series, I’m going to explained the most important words and expressions related to Search and Information Findability.

Let’s start with three basic expressions: Search, Find and Discover.


Search is an action with the intent of getting relevant and useful content which helps us to get a particular task or job done.

Search is usually initiated by some user interaction: in most cases, entering a query, choosing some filtering options, or navigating by a menu.

Search can be intended for a single document or item, or a small set of documents. For example, looking for accommodation for your family vacation. Searching for the current lunch menu in your office’s cafeteria. Or gathering purchase history of a customer.

Search also can be exploratory search when the user wants to explore the available content and collect the useful pieces during his/her “journey”. For example browsing a travel agency’s website, collecting ideas where to go for family vacation. Or overviewing the latest documents in your department, to get an idea what your colleagues have been working on recently.


By leveraging statistical, data mining and machine learning techniques, discovery tools provide personalized content suggestions to every user. Content discovery is an important part of findability (see below) because users can find (discover) content that they often don’t even know about. This way, the content “comes” to them, without proactively searching for it.

For example, in Office 365, Delve, powered by Office Graph, is a discovery tool.

Office Delve


Findability means intentionally being able to find something. It’s the cabability of finding the proper document(s) or content piece(s) according to the context and the user’s current intent.

Findability includes Search and Discovery, but it is more than that. It also consists of navigation (how I can get to the content), information architecture (how the content is organized in the source system), user experience, accessibility as well as machine learning techniques.

Findability is more than Search and Discovery.