Experimental User-Centered Evaluation of an Open Hypermedia System and Web Information Seeking Environments
This paper presents an experimental user-centered evaluation of two hypermedia system architectures, each representing a different interaction model and information-seeking environment. The first system is a hypermedia digital library based on the World Wide Web. This system represents an interaction model in which information seekers consistently use a single interface (i.e. a Web browser) to access different information seeking strategies (ISSs). The second system is a similar library (in terms of content and organisation) that is based on an agent-based Open Hypermedia System (OHS). This library encourages an interaction model in which multiple user interfaces and information seeking strategies may be used in a more parallel fashion. Several researchers have suggested that information seeking may be more effective in systems that allow the parallel use of multiple information seeking strategies. On the other hand, the ease of use of the simple click-and-go-to interaction model introduced by the Web and the consistency of its interface appears to be more attractive for most information seekers. The aim of this paper is to examine and discuss these hypotheses critically. Although general conclusions cannot be drawn from the experiment, the results present some useful indications. A first indication is that information seeking environments that support multiple seeking strategies through multiple interfaces may be more effective and efficient for some information seeking tasks. Also, results taken from a questionnaire given to users of the OHS indicate that complex interaction models may not be prohibitively difficult to use, even for inexperienced information seekers.