CEC Theses and Dissertations

Title

Visually Searching the World Wide Web for Content: A Study of Two Search Interfaces

Date of Award

2002

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Graduate School of Computer and Information Sciences

Advisor

Laurie Dringus

Committee Member

Marlyn Kemper Littman

Committee Member

Steven R. Terrell

Abstract

The vast amount of data available over the World Wide Web has created the necessity for new initiatives that translate this data into useful information for users. Due to human's acute visual perception, applications that utilize information visualization CIV) methodologies may ease user frustration when facing an abundance of search results from an Internet query. The recent introduction of ditto.com, an Internet search engine that provides users with a graphical depiction of search results documents, is a recent initiative that employs IV methodologies.

This research is based upon the usability of traditional information retrieval systems and Internet search applications, and the impact IV methodologies have had on these systems. A usability evaluation was recently implemented to determine if IV methodologies can facilitate users' search needs when searching for information over the Internet. Fifteen randomly selected participants that match the diversity of Web users were asked to compare two Internet search results interfaces: Yahoo! a search engine that provides users with text-based search results and the graphical displays found within ditto.com.

Descriptive data was collected through usability questionnaires and observing users search for information. Measurable data was collected by testing the performance of each search engine as the users search for ready-reference questions. Time to complete search tasks, the accuracy of the tasks, and number of error rates was collected from this session. Users were asked to provide their preference for one of the search engines. The data was analyzed for mean averages, occurrence of specific incidents that help or hindered users, and distribution of results with user experience. The results of this study are presented in a narrative report of users' preferences and concerns.

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