— 19 February 2004 —

New SURL Research Newsletter

The new newsletter from our close, personal friends at SURL just came out. It should provide some interesting reading, though the one that springs (no pun intended) to mind that has the most interest to me (because the others don’t, and isn’t that all that is important?;) is the study on the use of breadcrumbs.

Influence of Training and Exposure on the Usage of Breadcrumb Navigation
By Spring S. Hull

Summary: Recent studies have shown that while the use of breadcrumb trails to navigate a website can be helpful, few users choose to utilize this method of navigation. This study investigates the effects of “mere exposure” and training on breadcrumb usage. Findings indicate that brief training on the benefits of breadcrumb usage resulted in more efficient search behavior.

I must admit to being not entirely happy with the methodology used in the breadcrumb study. Only one site was used. This may not be a big deal, but I think I would like to see a few sites used, though still only have each participant only go to one of the sites. And it would have to be a site they had not visited before.

I don’t think the research should necessarily support all sites implementing breadcrumbs, even if:

This time savings could result in increased productivity for users that search websites on a daily basis. Future research should investigate the development of navigational training, especially in corporate environments, where time savings could translate into significant corporate savings.

I used breadcrumbs in an application (different from the ecommerce site tested in the study) recently to a fair amount of success. Not only were the breadcrumbs a good source of navigation, but they also helped the user understand the hierarchical nature of the information they were looking at compared to the other data levels accessible through the app. It also helped because the browser window didn’t supply regular browser buttons (no Back button) and the right-click menu was disabled. That’s Web apps for ya.

There are also two studies that SURL is running. The first is seeking to build data to help make a valid instrument “to help us truly measure online experience,” and the second “seeks to understand where individuals expect certain web objects to be located on a typical ecommerce website.”

Stop by and lend them some data.

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