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Sara Rigutti, Walter Gerbino; Navigating in a web site: Label-following vs. layout-following strategies. Journal of Vision 2006;6(6):72. doi: 10.1167/6.6.72.
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Cognitive models of web navigation emphasize the use of a label-following strategy based on the correspondence between the meaning of labels and user information goals. In a previous study we demonstrated that the information-seeking behavior is driven by page layout rather than by semantic cues alone (Rigutti & Gerbino 2004) and suggested that users adopt a layout-following strategy based on implicit knowledge: the navigation bar [at the page top] shows the generic information categories of a hierarchical site, while the embedded links [within the working area] show the basic information.
To further test this hypothesis we ran an experiment in which users were asked to search for a visual target within a simulated web page. Targets belonged to either generic or basic information categories displayed in one of six possible spatial positions: three in the top area within the navigation bar and three in the working area within the embedded links. Labels neighboring the target might define either congruent or incongruent information contexts.
Target position affected response times. When information context was congruent, responses to targets in the top area [within the navigation bar] were faster if the information target was generic rather than basic; while the opposite was true for target in the working area [within the embedded links]. When the information context was incongruent, no matter on target position, a superiority of basic vs. generic information targets was found.
Results are consistent with the idea that the layout following strategy is an effective component of the information-seeking behavior.
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