Evaluating History Mechanisms: An Empirical Study of Reuse Patterns in WWW Navigation

Tauscher, L. (1996)
Evaluating History Mechanisms: An Empirical Study of Reuse Patterns in WWW Navigation. Master's thesis, Department of Computer Science, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada, June.

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Abstract

History mechanisms in user interfaces allow users to select and redo one of their previous activities, ostensibly reducing the cognitive and physical overhead that would have been required to specify them from scratch. Recently, history mechanisms have been incorporated into World Wide Web (WWW) browsers as navigation aids. Yet how effective are these Web-based history systems? Are they needed? Can they be improved?

The hypothesis of this research is that users revisit WWW pages, and that an examination of individual's WWW navigation patterns can provide insight into the design of history systems. Data was collected from 23 subjects who used an instrumented version of XMosaic 2.6 for 6 weeks. We found that 58% of an individual's pages are revisits, and that users continually add new Web pages into their repertoire of visited pages. They access only a few pages frequently, revisit recently visited pages, browse in very small clusters of related pages, and generate short sequences of repeated URL visits.

A further analysis of conditioning methods for history lists indicates that the stack-based method found in many commercial browsers shows only modest effectiveness, whereas a simpler approach that offers the ten or so recently visited URLs offers better predictiveness. Other approaches fare even better. Based on empirical evidence, nine design guidelines for WWW browser history mechanisms are then formulated. When used to evaluate existing history mechanisms, it is clear that today's browsers are not as effective as they could be.

Bibtex entry

@MASTERSTHESIS { 1996-Tauscher.MScThesis,
CLASS = { THESIS },
AUTHOR = { Tauscher, L. },
TITLE = { Evaluating History Mechanisms: An Empirical Study of Reuse Patterns in WWW Navigation },
SCHOOL = { Department of Computer Science, University of Calgary },
ADDRESS = { Calgary, Alberta, Canada },
YEAR = { 1996 },
MONTH = { June },
}