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Using cues to forage for information on the Web

Stella D. Tomasi (Department of e-Business and Technology Management, Towson University, Towson, Maryland, USA)

Journal of Systems and Information Technology

ISSN: 1328-7265

Article publication date: 4 November 2014




The purpose of this paper was to study users’ behaviour when using different search engine results pages (SERPs) to identify what types of scents (cues) were the most useful to find relevant information to complete tasks on the Web based on information foraging theory.


This study has designed three interface prototypes and conducted a qualitative study using the protocol analysis methodology. The subjects were recorded and videotaped to identify patterns of searching behaviours on visualization interfaces of SERPs.


The study found that users found titles of categories or websites, keywords of categories, orientation of results and animation are strong scents that users follow to help find information on SERPs. If certain scents are not used followed on an interface, then their strength will diminish. Furthermore, the study showed that simple scent trails are more important to users than complicated trails.


This study uses a qualitative approach to explore how users behave with different SERP formats, particularity a visualization format, and identify which scents on the interface are important for users to follow to successfully complete tasks on the Web.



D. Tomasi, S. (2014), "Using cues to forage for information on the Web", Journal of Systems and Information Technology, Vol. 16 No. 4, pp. 296-312.



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Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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