CEC Theses and Dissertations

Title

An Analysis of Usability Issues of The World Wide Web(WWW)

Date of Award

1998

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Graduate School of Computer and Information Sciences

Advisor

Laurie Dringus

Committee Member

Maxine S. Cohen

Committee Member

Marlyn Kemper Littman

Abstract

An abundance of information exists on the World Wide Web on almost any subject or topic. How well Web users are able to manage the abundance of information to achieve their goals is expressed through the concept of usability. Researchers (Pitkow and Kehoe, 1997; Shneiderman, 1998; Nielsen, 1995b; Agnew, Wang, Faloutsos and Welch, 1997) report that information on the Web is often disorganized resulting in users experiencing usability difficulties in finding specific information. In addition, studies (Shneiderman, 1998; Mauldin, 1997; Freidman, 1997; Cheah and Koh, 1997; Nielsen, 1990; Smith, 1994; Pitkow and Kehoe, 1997) also reflect that users report related usability difficulties which include, but are not limited to: information abundance and overload; information organization; search engine manipulation and output interpretation; orientation and navigation; and overall design of Web information spaces.

Many researchers (Pitkow and Kehoe, 1997; Shneiderman, 1998; Nielsen, 1995) agree that the Web is becoming an invaluable information resource, however, improvements are necessary to address the issues raised by users who report usability difficulties. Cben and Rada (1996) state that "a synthesis of the empirical findings on hypertext from a single, unifying perspective would help researchers, designers, and users of hypertext systems" (p. 150). The goal of this dissertation was to explore the dimensions of Web usability for users through a synthesis and analysis of current research and address three questions:

  1. What are the factors contributing to the problem of Web usability for users?
  2. How are researchers and developers currently addressing the problem?
  3. What guidelines are available for Web developers that will reduce or eliminate current usability difficulties?

This synthesis of the factors contributing to the usability problems of Web users is intended to help researchers, designers and users of hypertext systems (Chen and Rada, 1996) and reveal suggestions for future research. It is also intended to improve practical application by providing suggestions to improve Web usability by more efficient and effective designs. "The infrastructure, protocols, tools, communities, conventions and activities of the Internet are evolving simultaneously and rapidly" (Kellogg and Richards, 1995, p. 33). These rapid advances are rendering the Web more accessible to greater numbers of diverse user populations who are less technically oriented. Therefore, the value of understanding Web usability issues can only become a critical requirement for Web developers as the user population continues to expand (Kellogg and Richards, 1995).

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