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The World-Wide Web (WWW) is invaluable as an information source for many users. The ability to access information so quickly by a simple click fascinates most users, however, after a while users typically have difficulty in remembering where they are coming from and in referring to previously visited pages.

Studies on users' navigation strategies, and browsing-task analyses provide interesting results [72, 73, 74, 75]. However, current interfaces for browsing on the WWW are still primitive, in that they do not support many of the navigation needs of users, as indicated by these studies. Browsers do not provide an overview and give a sense of location in the information structure being browsed, nor facilitate organization and filtering of information. They provide only rudimentary means to aid users in accessing already visited pages.

Conklin [76] identified the problems with hypertext as:

Disorientation, as Conklin argued, stems from the lack of knowledge of the current position in the whole information structure, but also of the path(s) to the desired destination position. Utting and Yankelovich [77] identified these as spatial and temporal contexts, respectively.

Utting and Yankelovich's further examination provided more details on the problems in current browsers:

Marchionini and Shneiderman [78] argue that in browsing, goals are not well defined and change dynamically as new information is encountered by the user. Current browsers also give little flexibility in the specification of the spatial and temporal layout.

Rosenberg [75] pointed out that current WWW browsers provide a single window on the document, and when users click to follow a link, the new document is opened in place, replacing the former. Some systems allow another window to be opened for the new document. Browsers simply rely on the window manager to organize these open documents. However, current window managers fail to provide an organization which reflects the semantic relationship that exists among documents browsed on the WWW.

The fundamental mechanism for organization is composition. However, Halasz [79] argues that the hypertext model lacks a composition mechanism, i.e. a way of representing and dealing with groups of nodes and links as unique entities separate from their components.

Although several WWW studies provide demographical information on users and web-sites, our interest is on studies that examine users' navigational access patterns. Studies done on users' navigational strategies by Catledge and Pitkow [72] and by Tauscher and Greenberg [73] are particularly interesting in that they are done in open systems for long durations. Catledge and Pitkow`s studies led to the following observations:

Tauscher and Greenberg examined recurrence of page visits, growth of URL vocabulary, visit frequency as a function of distance, frequency of URL accesses according to page types, locality, and length of repeated sequences. In summary, their observations are:

An improved screen layout with facilities for efficient manipulation may improve user performance and satisfaction to a large degree. Based on this observation I have applied Elastic Windows principles to World-Wide Web browsing.

next up previous
Next: Design Up: World-Wide Web Browser Previous: World-Wide Web Browser

Eser Kandogan
Sun Sep 13 18:34:46 EDT 1998

Web Accessibility