Matthias Mayer, Univ. of Hamburg, Germany
"Contextual Web-Visualization: BrowsingIcons and More"
September 12, 2pm, 3258 A.V. Williams Building

Navigation and orientation on the Web are still troublesome. Finding information on the web often takes too much time and is mostly of little fun. This situation should be changed. As a point of departure, I differentiate nine contexts which are important for web-related activities. The Link Context of a certain web page, for example, describes the pages which are connected to this specific page by incoming and outgoing hyperlinks; A Session Context provides information about the sequence of web pages accessed by a certain user during the time; A Task Context describes web pages that help the user to accomplish a certain task; The Social Context regards other users and their navigational behaviour as well; five more contexts will be introduced. Each context provides its own navigational and orientational space. Thus, a user can be given orientation in one context while being completely disoriented in another one.

To make contexts perceivable by the user, I developed so called BrowsingIcons as one form of contextual visualization. They are designed to visualize some of the contexts in a task oriented way: The paths a user takes in the web are visualized as graphs. Each session is mapped to one graph in a re-cognizable way. The user can interact with the visualizations in order to revisit pages that were visited shortly before or a long time ago. The sessions are organized according to the user's tasks. Thus, if a user wants to execute a task similar to a previously executed task, he has just to copy the old task and all related BrowsingIcons.

The idea of BrowsingIcons is enriched by the notions of BrowseAheadGraphs and so called "Nutrient Solutions", queries that are formulated in a visual and intuitive way.

My PhD work is currently in the design phase. The prototype for later usability testing is built by using the HCIL's Jazz Framework and an IBM Proxy architecture (WBI). I will consider implementation issues in my talk as well. An outlook on possibilities of future extentions and refinements will be given.