Designing information-abundant websites
issues and recommendations
Erstpublikation in: International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, Vol. 47, No. 1, July, pp. 5-29
Web sites are often designed according to the originator’s identity, goals, and intentions. But as in any user-interface design, the question to address is: who are the users and what are their tasks? When creating a completely new web site assumptions about potential users should be made. The distinction between first-time, intermittent, and frequent users is very important. The users’ tasks can range from fact-finding to unstructured browsing and exploring the available information. This is very different from traditional computer tasks (e.g. word processing) where the tasks are much clearer.
Shneiderman describes the Objects/Actions Interface (OAI) model with respect to web sites. Information objects are aggregated in unstructured lists, linear structures, tables, trees, etc. Actions are, for example, looking for a name in an alphabetical list, scanning a list of articles, reading a paragraph or following a hyperlink. Unfortunately, the OAI model does not tell what information design is best suited for what user action.
The case of the Library of Congress’ web site illustrates that searching is a very important user action. A good search system indicates whether stemming, stop word elimination or other transformations have been applied. Visualisation of the search results might allow the users to visually browse and filter the results. Another important user action is navigation. Shneiderman proposes site maps and other visualisations of web sites, but he also states that visualisations can be complex and confusing.
The World Wide Web has changed a lot since 1997, but Shneiderman’s design recommendations are still helpful, for instance on how to reduce users’ disorientation or how to structure the search process. His OAI model is a useful tool to analyse user actions and to structure content. However, the model does not tell how to design the interface. From today’s point of view navigation is emphasised too much. The success of Google’s search engine has heavily influenced the way people surf the web. Consequently, few web sites have a hierarchical thesaurus, many have a site map, but almost every large web site has a search function.
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KB IB clear
|Jakob Nielsen, Ben Shneiderman|
KB IB clear
|HCI/MMI (Human-Computer-Interaction)Human-Computer-Interaction, Informationsflutinformation overflow, Informationsflut im WWW, UsabilityUsability, User Interface (Benutzerschnittstelle)User Interface, Web-Auftritt, WWW (World Wide Web)World Wide Web|
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