Last night I had some NYC IAs over and we talked about what kind of persona- or scenario-like information could be culled from server logs (Tanya raised the idea in her Info Foraging paper) along with tangents into linguistics and semantic networks. Tanya brought along Visualization of Navigation Patterns on a Web Site using Model Based Clustering, a 2001 work from researchers at the DataLab at University California, Irvine and Microsoft. The clusters of paths alone reveal interesting patterns of site usage that could inform design.
But also imagine following users in real time, watching which pattern they’re exhibiting, and dynamically altering navigation to help them follow that path. Compare this to the Accidental Thesaurus technique (hard-coding search results to popular queries) and the two together start to form another way of designing, of making changes based on actual behavior as opposed to building models based on research, making design guesses, then testing those guesses.