A basis for the exploration of hypermedia systems : a guided path facility : a thesis presented in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts at Massey University

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Massey University
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This thesis examines the potential of a paths facility as an aid to navigating large hypermedia systems. The use of the navigational metaphor as applied to finding information is continued with the idea of following a path through information 'space'. This idea assumes that each node, or chunk of information, on the path can be considered a landmark that can be easily returned to when side-trips are taken off the path to explore the surrounding space. The idea of a guided path assumes the re-use of a path, and also assumes that there is extra information available about the path. This meta-information is very important for providing information to help path-followers make better sense of the path, both in terms of content and context, but also in making more effective use of the nodes on the path and in navigating the variety of interface conventions seen in the test environment - HyperCard. A small pilot study has been carried out using two groups of users performing a directed information-seeking task. One group used HyperCard's navigational facilities to find information in a group of stacks, while the other group used a guided path as a base on which to explore the same group of stacks. Both groups had a time limit, at the end of which they completed a number of questionnaires to indicate task completion, as well as providing a subjective evaluation of the facilities they used. The guided path facility appears to be most effective for inexperienced users for a number of reasons. It presents a simplified view of the complex system - the information available has already been filtered and selected, and a simple and consistent navigational interface reduces the cognitive overheads associated with learning a variety of mechanisms present in different stacks. An important feature of a path facility seems to be the provision of meta-information, especially scope information which can reduce the incidences of disorientation. Another feature is the provision of a history facility which provides a backtracking capability. It may also be used in the creation of paths using the length of visit as a criterion for node inclusion on a new path.
Hypertext systems, Interactive multimedia, HyperCard (Computer program)