A usability approach to improving the user experience in web directories
Web directories are hierarchically organised website collections that offer users subjectbased access to the Web. They played a significant part in navigating the Web in the past but their role has been weakened in recent years due to their cumbersome expanding collections. This thesis presents a unified framework combining the advantages of personalisation and redefined directory search for improving the usability of Web directories. The thesis begins with an examination of classification schemes that identifies the rigidity of hierarchical classifications and their suitability for Web directories in contrast to faceted classifications. This leads on to an Ontological Sketch Modelling (OSM) case study which identifies the misfits affecting user navigation in Web directories from known rigidity issues. The thesis continues with a review of personalisation techniques and a discussion of the user search model of Web directories following the suggested directions of improvement from the case study. A proposed user-centred framework to improve the usability of Web directories which consists of an individual content-based personalisation model and a redefined search model is then implemented as D-Persona and D-Search respectively. The remainder of the thesis is concerned with a usability test of D-Persona and D-Search aimed at discovering the efficiency, effectiveness and user satisfaction of the solution. This involves an experimental design, test results and discussions for the comparative user study. This thesis extracts a formal definition of the rigidity of hierarchies from their characteristics and justifies why hierarchies are still better suited than facets in organising Web directories. Second, it identifies misfits causing poor usability in Web directories based on the discovered rigidity of hierarchies. Third, it proposes a solution to tackle the misfits and improve the usability of Web directories which has been experimentally proved to be successful.
- Theses