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Users of the world unite!
Users of the world unite!
User behavior is an increasingly complex thing to model and predict. While some may attribute this to the growing complexity of users per se, I tend to side with those who blame the technology. As my friend and Internet Research editorial board member, Leon Sterling, has said, no matter how user-friendly we try to make our computers, in the end we are relying on the fact that it is users who are computer-friendly. The point is that in developing new systems we tend to saddle the user with the burden of adapting to our systems and not vice versa. Thankfully, Leon is right and users seem to be quite adaptive.
In this issue of Internet Research we see a number of different directions being followed in order to improve the online user experience.
Cunliffe presents a Web site development methodology with usability as its focus in "Developing usable Web sites – a review and model". He discusses the importance of understanding both user and information provider needs and examines a number of usability methods.
Maintaining an intelligent user dialog with a search engine is perhaps one of the most frustrating user experiences known. In fact, as shown by Spink et al., only one in five Excite users ever attempt to initiate query reformulation based on the feedback received from the search engine. In their study on the "Use of query reformulation and relevance feedback by Excite users, Spink et al. examined over 18,000 user search sessions encompassing over 50,000 queries. While the success of using relevance feedback appears to be significantly high, the fact that so few users take advantage of it points to deficiencies in interface design, among other things. The paper discusses a number of implications for the design of Web search engine systems.
A third area in which user issues are paramount is in the design of instructional software. Maule presents a WWW-based instructional learning system, based on metacognitive research, in "Metacognitive research and development framework (MRDF) for Internet instructional science software". By examining the metacognitive attributes of students, Maule shows how we can improve the effectiveness of teaching science concepts in an interactive browser environment.
Moving from the individual user to an organizational setting, Stevens and McElhill present "A qualitative study and model of the use of e-mail in organisations". Here the emphasis shifts from micro-level user interfaces to the macro-level issues of proper e-mail adoption and usage across an organization. Stevens and McElhill develop a model that allows an organization to determine its present level of e-mail usage across the dimensions of information management, people influences, corporate culture, and knowledge management.
O'Daniel and Wai present an analysis of "Domain name and site hosting preferences" with a focus on the fluid nature of site domiciliation. As governments start coming to grips with the "naturalization" issues of Web sites, the type of site migration identified by these authors may become increasingly common.
Finally, we have two papers that deal with national cases with clear implications for Internet development in other countries. Karadas and Papathanassiou discuss the "Development of B2C e-commerce in Greece", and Bentley and Yoong present a case study of "Knowledge work and telework" in New Zealand.
If the Internet users of the world really were to unite, it would make the job of systems developers much easier – think about it, no more language issues, no more different resolutions, no more multiple platforms, hey, maybe even a single browser for all … of course they have another word for that these days, and it is not unity – just ask Microsoft.
David G. Schwartz