The experiment used five versions of an online site made for this study.


The participants were 51 experienced Web users recruited by Sun (average amount of Web experience was two years). Participants ranged in age from 22-69 (average age was 41). So that they can concentrate on “normal users,” we excluded the professions that are following the analysis: webmasters, Web designers, graphic designers, graphical user interface professionals, writers, editors, computer scientists, and computer programmers.

We checked for outcomes of age and Web experience from the dependent variables mentioned in the first five hypotheses, but we found only negligible differences-none significant. Had the sites within our study been more challenging to navigate or had our tasks necessitated use of search engines or other Web infrastructure, we would have expected significant ramifications 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 employment and gender 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 internet users said travel is one of their interests, and 2) travel content lent itself into the different writing styles we wanted to study. We chose Nebraska to minimize the effect of prior knowledge on our measures (in recruiting participants, we screened out individuals who had ever lived in, and even near, Nebraska).

Each form of the Travel Nebraska site consisted of seven pages, and all versions used the same hypertext structure. To ensure participants would give attention to text rather than be distracted, we used hypertext that is modestwithout any links away from site) and included only three photos and another illustration. There is no animation. Topics within the site were Nebraska’s history, geography, population, places of interest, and economy. The Appendix to the paper shows elements of an example page from each condition.

The control form of your website had a promotional form of writing (in other words., “marketese,”), which contained exaggeration, subjective claims, and boasting, rather than just simple facts. Today this style is characteristic of many pages on the Web.

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

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

The version that is objective 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.

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

After making certain the participant knew just how to utilize the browser, the experimenter explained which he would observe from the room across the street to the lab through the one-way mirror. For the study, the participant received both printed instructions from a paper packet and verbal instructions through the experimenter.

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

Next, the participant was instructed to pay ten minutes learning whenever possible from the pages when you look at the website, when preparing for a exam that is short. Finally, the participant was asked to attract in some recoverable format the structure of this website, towards the best of his / 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 locate answers when it comes to two search tasks and one judgment task.

The two search tasks were to answer: “On what date did Nebraska become a state?” and “Which Nebraska city could be the 7th largest, in terms of population?” The questions for the judgment task were: “In your opinion, which tourist attraction would be the one that is best to consult with? How come you might think so?”

Task errors was a percentage score based on the true wide range of incorrect answers users gave in the two search tasks.

Memory comprised two measures from the exam: recognition and recall. Recognition memory was a portion score based on the wide range of correct answers without the quantity of incorrect answers to 5 questions that are multiple-choice. For instance, among the questions read: “Which is Nebraska’s largest ethnic group? a) English b) Swedes c) Germans d) Irish.”

Recall memory was a share score on the basis of the true number of tourist attractions correctly recalled without the number incorrectly recalled. The question was: “Do you remember any true names of places of interest mentioned in the website? Please use the space below to list all of the ones you remember.”

Time and energy to recall site structure was the amount of seconds it took users to attract a sitemap.

A related measure, sitemap accuracy, was a portion score on the basis of the number of pages (maximum 7) and connections between pages (maximum 9) correctly identified, without the wide range of pages and connections incorrectly identified.

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