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November 2021

Understanding and facilitating the browsing of electronic text

Journal/Book: Int J Hum Comput Studies. 2000; 52: 24-28 Oval Rd, London NW1 7DX, England. Academic Press Ltd. 423-452.

Abstract: Browsing tends to be used in two distinctive ways, alternatively associated with the goal of the activity and with the method by which the goal is achieved. In this study, the definition of browsing combines aspects of both concepts to define browsing as an activity in which one gathers information while scanning an information space without an explicit purpose. The objective of this research was to examine how browsers interact with their browsing environment while manipulating two types of interface tools constructed from the content. (1) Menus: these were considered a stable device facilitating navigation, orientation and route finding. One version was presented in traditional hierarchical form while the other displayed an levels of the hierarchy simultaneously. (2) ''Items-to-browse'' tools: these were meant to encourage meandering and diversion and to prime the browsing activity. One version displayed automatically a set of Suggestions while the second was a typical Search Tool. Forty-seven adults (24 males) performed the two types of tasks tone with no purpose and the second, a control, purposeful) in four sessions over a period of four weeks. Participants scanned and/or searched the textual content of current issue plus three months of back issues of the Halifax Chronicle Herald/Mail Star using a system designed specifically for this research. At any one time only one of each type of tool was available. Those with no assigned goal examined significantly more articles and explored more menu options. They made quick decisions about which articles to examine, spending twice as much time reading the content. They tended not to explore the newspaper to a great extent, examining only 24% of the articles in a single issue. About three-quarters of what they examined was new information on topics that they had not known about before being exposed to the paper. The type of menu had no impact on performance, but differences were discovered between the two items-to-browse tools. Those with no goal selected more articles from the Suggestions and found more interesting articles when the Suggestions were available.

Note: Article Toms EG, Dalhousie Univ, Sch Lib & Informat Studies, Halifax, NS B3H 3J5, CANADA

Keyword(s): INFORMATION-RETRIEVAL; USER NAVIGATION; MENTAL MODELS; HYPERTEXT; DESIGN; SYSTEMS; INTERFACE; DATABASE; SUPPORT


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