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Off the Beaten Tracks: Exploring Three Aspects of Web Navigation

  • Harald Weinreich, VSIS, Department of Informatics, University of Hamburg, Germany
  • Hartmut Obendorf, ASI, Department of Informatics, University of Hamburg, Germany
  • Eelco Herder, Department of Computer Science, University of Twente, The Netherlands
  • Matthias Mayer, ASI, Department of Informatics, University of Hamburg, Germany
Nominated for Best Student Paper

Full text:

Track: Browsers and User Interfaces

Slot: 14:00-15:30, Wednesday 24th May

This paper presents results of a long-term client-side Web usage study, updating previous studies that range in age from five to ten years. We focus on three aspects of Web navigation: changes in the distribution of navigation actions, speed of navigation and within-page navigation.

"Navigation actions" corresponding to users' individual page requests are discussed by type. We reconfirm links to be the most important navigation element, while backtracking has lost more than half of its previously reported share and form submission has become far more common. Changes of the Web and the browser interfaces are candidates for causing these changes.

Analyzing the time users stayed on pages, we confirm Web navigation to be a rapidly interactive activity. A breakdown of page characteristics shows that users often do not take the time to read the available text or consider all links. The performance of the Web is analyzed and reassessed against the resulting requirements.

Finally, habits of within-page navigation are presented. Although most selected hyperlinks are located in the top left corner of the screen, in nearly a quarter of all cases people choose links that require scrolling. We analyzed the available browser real estate to gain insights for the design of non-scrolling Web pages.

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