Academic journal article Visible Language

User Analysis: Framework

Academic journal article Visible Language

User Analysis: Framework

Article excerpt

Thoughts on User's Cognitive Factors for Information Design on Web-based Media

Websites have passed through several developmental progressions, from simple textual information to more sophisticated interactive communication that engages a larger and more diverse audience. As an alternative channel to communicate, access information, perform a task or fulfill personal interest, more usability problems become apparent. Studying and solving these problems is increasingly essential. This study attempts to analyze and understand search problems based on user search behavior. To understand this behavior more profoundly, focus shifts to the user's cognitive factors that underlie and regulate behavior while searching though a website. These cognitive factors include generic goals, user modes of searching, user search strategies and methods, as well as different types of models to identify user characteristics. The study discusses classification of these cognitive factors and provides an analytic framework that helps systematically analyze and synthesize these factors in order to better anticipate user search behavior with the goal to eventually be able to determine the kinds of information and functions needed to include in different types of website design.

BACKGROUND

As web-based media has already begun to dominate our everyday life, it has passed through several progressions-the earlier simple model refashioned only textual communication available to those in academia or research to the far more sophisticated visual-animated interactive medium which now engages much larger and diverse audiences. The development in communication and information technology enables content to evolve from the electronic version of a simple letter or textual report to the interactive version of newspaper, magazine, graphic advertising and merchandising catalog, consequently web-based media has become more prevalent than ever. It has transformed the ways we live by presenting us with alternative channels to communicate, access information, perform tasks or fulfill personal interest. These opportunities extend to the general technically literate population. However, as more audiences engage, more usability problems are uncovered. These problems can't be solved by the development of technically sophisticated systems alone. User behaviors need to be deeply understood in order to design systems that allow users to perform their tasks easily, without struggle and frustration.

PREVIOUS RESEARCH FINDINGS

A previous research paper "User Purposes and Information-seeking Behaviors in Web-based Media: A User-centered Approach to Information Design on Websites" (Sawasdichai, 2002) provides a new perspective on design considerations for a website by incorporating requirements from both website (client) intentions and user purposes. In this study, user purposes and their modes of searching were investigated simultaneously with website goals to reveal common search patterns associated with each case and to identify the primary problems that occur in each pattern. The results show that the patterns of user search behaviors are uniquely different depending on their purposes and current modes of searching. Even though each user (subject) performed his/her task in isolation and in her/his own way, similar search patterns appeared based on a shared purpose and/or the same mode of searching. Different search patterns were associated with different user purposes and website intentions. Ten cases were investigated ranging from very specific to open-ended purposes and searches.

The research findings also show that user purposes and modes of searching are the main mechanisms that play an important role in determining user behavior and the resulting search pattern (see figure 1). User purpose is the main factor regulating their task description, while user mode of searching provides the major impact on their search strategies and search methods. …

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