Can Navigational Assistance Improve Search Experience?

Mazlita Mat-Hassan and Mark Leven publish the results of a usability test that considers the incorporation of navigation aids in search services. Appears in the September issue of First Monday. Providing navigational aids to assist users in finding information in hypertext systems has been an ongoing research problem for well over a decade. Despite this, the incorporation of navigational aids into Web search tools has been slow. While search engines have become very efficient in producing high quality rankings, support for the navigational process is still far from satisfactory. To deal with this shortcoming of search tools, we have developed a site specific search and navigation engine that incorporates several recommended navigational aids into its novel user interface, based on the concept of a user trail. Herein, we report on a usability study whose aim was to ascertain whether adding semi-automated navigational aids to a search tool improves users' experience when "surfing" the Web. The results we obtained from the study revealed that users of the navigation engine performed better in solving the question set posed than users of a conventional search engine. Moreover, users of the navigation engine provided more accurate answers in less time and with less clicks. Our results indicate that adding navigational aids to search tools will enhance Web usability and take us a step further towards resolving the problem of "getting lost in hyperspace". thanks brightly colored food