Information Foraging Theory (IFT) has successfully explained how people seek information in various domains, in turn, informing the design of several tools and information-intensive environments. However, prior research has not explored foraging in the presence of several, very similar variants of the same artifact. Such variants are commonplace in several creative, exploratory tasks such as graphic design, writing and programming.
In this thesis, we evaluate whether and how IFT applies to variants. Using empirical studies and computational models that predict programmers’ information foraging among variants, this thesis provides evidence for the applicability of IFT in variations situations and offers new insights for variations-support tools. Along the way, this thesis also demonstrates the benefits of computationally modeling: 1) the hierarchical organization of information environments, 2) variable costs of navigation in an information environment and 3) accounting for non-textual (graphical) information.