The experiment used five versions of a web page created for this research.


The participants were 51 experienced internet users recruited by Sun (average number of Web experience was 2 years). Participants ranged in age from 22-69 (average age was 41). In an attempt to focus on “normal users,” we excluded the professions that are following the study: webmasters, web-site designers, graphic designers, user interface professionals, writers, editors, computer scientists, and computer programmers.

We checked for outcomes of age and Web experience regarding the dependent variables mentioned in the 1st five hypotheses, but we found only differences-none significant that is negligible. Had the sites in our study been more challenging to navigate or had our tasks necessitated use of search engines or any other Web infrastructure, we would have expected significant effects of both age and Web experience.

The experiment employed a 5-condition (promotional control, scannable, concise, objective, or combined) between-subjects design. Conditions were balanced for gender and employment status.

Experimental Materials

Called “Travel Nebraska,” the website contained information about Nebraska. We used a travel site because 1) in our earlier qualitative studies, many Web users said travel is regarded as their interests, and 2) travel content lent itself to your different writing styles we wished to study. We chose Nebraska to reduce the effect of prior knowledge on our measures (in recruiting participants, we screened out those who had ever lived in, if not near, Nebraska).

Each type of the Travel Nebraska site consisted of seven pages, and all versions used the same hypertext structure. To make certain that participants would focus on text and never be distracted, we used modest hypertext (with no links away from site) and included only three photos and something illustration. There was no animation. Topics included in the site were Nebraska’s history, geography, population, places of interest, and economy. The Appendix to this paper shows areas of a sample page from each condition.

The control type of the site had a style that is promotional of (i.e., “marketese,”), which contained exaggeration, subjective claims, and boasting, instead of just simple facts. Today this style is characteristic of many pages on the Web.

The concise version had a promotional writing style, but its text was much shorter. Certain information that is less-important cut, bringing the word count for every page to approximately half compared to the corresponding page when you look at the control version. Some of the writing in this version was in the inverted style that is pyramid. However, all information users necessary to perform the required tasks was presented in the order that is same all versions associated with site.

The version that is scannable contained marketese, however it was written to encourage scanning, or skimming, for the text for information of interest. This version used bulleted lists, boldface text to highlight keywords, photo captions, shorter sections of text, and more headings.

The objective version was stripped of marketese. It presented information without exaggeration, subjective claims, or boasting.

The combined version had shorter word count, was marked up for scannability, and was stripped of marketese.

Upon arrival in the usability lab, the participant signed a videotape consent form, then was told she or he would visit a website, perform tasks, and answer several questions.

After making certain the participant knew simple tips to make use of the browser, the experimenter explained which he would observe from the room across the street into the lab through the one-way mirror. The participant received both printed instructions from a paper packet and verbal instructions from the experimenter throughout the study.

The participant began during the web site’s homepage. The very first two tasks were to look for specific facts (situated on separate pages when you look at the site), without needing a search tool or perhaps the “Find” command. The participant then answered Part 1 of a brief questionnaire. Next was a judgment task (suggested by Spool et al. 1997) in which the participant first had to find relevant information, then make a judgment about it. This task was followed by Part 2 of the questionnaire.

Next, the participant was instructed to invest ten minutes learning as much as possible from the pages when you look at the website, in preparation for a short exam. Finally, the participant was asked to draw in writing the structure regarding the website, to the best of his or her recollection.

Each participant was told details about the study and received a gift after completing the study.

Task time was the quantity of seconds it took users to find answers for the two search tasks and one judgment task.

The 2 search tasks were to resolve: “about what date did Nebraska become a continuing state?” and “Which Nebraska city is the 7th largest, in terms of population?” The questions for the judgment task were: “In your opinion, which tourist attraction will be the one that is best to see? How come you would imagine so?”

Task errors was a share score in line with the true number of incorrect answers users gave into the two search tasks.

Memory comprised two measures from the exam: recognition and recall. Recognition memory was a share score in line with the wide range of correct answers without the number of incorrect answers to 5 multiple-choice questions. For example, among the questions read: “that will be Nebraska’s largest ethnic group? a) English b) Swedes c) Germans d) Irish.”

Recall memory was a share score in line with the number of places of interest correctly recalled minus the number incorrectly recalled. The question was: “Do you remember any true names of tourist attractions mentioned when you look at the website? Please utilize the space below to list all the ones you remember.”

Time to recall site structure was the true quantity of seconds it took users to attract a sitemap.

A measure that is related sitemap accuracy, was a share score based on the wide range of pages (maximum 7) and connections between pages (maximum 9) correctly identified, without the amount of pages and connections incorrectly identified.

Subjective satisfaction was determined from participants’ answers to a paper-and-pencil questionnaire. Some questions inquired about specific facets of working with your website, along with other questions asked for an evaluation of how good adjectives that are certain the website (anchored by “Describes the site very poorly” to “Describes the site very well”). All questions used 10-point Likert scales.