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Age-Related Differences in Search Strategy and Performance When Using a Data-Rich Web Site


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Erica Olmsted-Hawala presented these findings at HCII 2013 in Las Vegas. Data are from a lab-based experimental usability study, in which we showed that older adults have greater difficulties with cognitively challenging tasks. However, even young adults have difficulties with complex data tables that are often found on government Web sites.

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Age-Related Differences in Search Strategy and Performance When Using a Data-Rich Web Site

  1. 1. 1 Age-Related Differences in Search Strategy and Performance When Using a Data-Rich Web Site Erica L. Olmsted-Hawala, U.S. Census Bureau; Jennifer Romano Bergstrom, Fors Marsh Group; Wendy A. Rogers, Georgia Institute of Technology HCII July 24, 2013
  2. 2. What We Studied • How adults search for information on a Web site • Whether age-related differences between younger, middle-age, and older adults actually exist • Identify any performance or strategy differences
  3. 3. Why? • Understand the nature of the difficulties people have in order to provide guidance for Web site design and training
  4. 4. Conclusion Preview • With a more cognitively challenging search task, age-related differences are apparent • Online data tables are difficult for all age groups
  5. 5. Agenda Methods Findings Conclusions
  6. 6. Agenda Methods Findings Conclusions
  7. 7. Methods • 61 participants in Metro DC area • Each session was eye tracked • Three age groups – Young adults ages 18-28 – Middle-age adults ages 40-51 – Older adults ages 65-76 • Worked in silence
  8. 8. Internet Experience Age group Significance Younger Middle-age Older Ease in learning to use new Web sites* 1.5 1.4 2.3 F (2,53)=6.08, p<.01 Ease in using the Internet* 1.1 1.2 1.4 F (2,53)=2.93, p=.06 *Scale: 1 (Not difficult at all) – 5 (Extremely difficult).
  9. 9. Example Tasks • Easy task: You want to learn more about Maryland, and specifically about how many people live there. How many people live in Maryland? • Hard task: You are working on a project that involves work environments in the US, and you are interested in the history of coal mining. How many coal mining companies were in the US in 2007?
  10. 10. Usability Metrics • Accuracy – Percent of users who successfully completed task • Efficiency – Mean time to make first click – Mean time to complete task • Successful completes only – Mean number of clicks to complete task • Successful completes only
  11. 11. Eye-tracking Metrics • Eye movement patterns in pre- defined Areas of Interest (AOIs) • Total number of fixations – Do participants look at correct area of the screen? • Total number of unique visits – Do participants re-check the correct answer before deciding it was correct?
  12. 12. Agenda Methods Findings Conclusions
  13. 13. Hard Task Performance Measure 0 20 40 60 80 Younger Middle-Age Older Accuracy by age group Accuracy by age group
  14. 14. Efficiency • Easy task: No age related differences • Hard task: – Older adults took longer to make the first click when initially starting their task – No age related differences in how long it took to complete the task – No age related difference in number of clicks to the answer page
  15. 15. p<.05
  16. 16. Eye tracking • Easy task start page – No age-related differences in where participants looked on main page on AOIs – No age-related differences in how many times participants re-checked the AOI before making a click • Easy & Hard task answer page – No age related differences in where participants looked – No age related differences in how many times participant re-checked their answer • All participants re-checked!
  17. 17. Agenda Methods Findings Conclusions
  18. 18. Limitations • Measures were on successful completions only • Fewer older adults made it to the correct answer page (17 younger adults vs 9 older adults) • Older adults that made it to the end of the task may have been higher functioning than average older adults
  19. 19. Conclusions • More cognitively challenging tasks indicate some age related differences • Number of clicks and time to complete tasks -- with a larger user group differences might be apparent • Eye tracking (as measured by number of fixations in AOIs) did not differ by age
  20. 20. Future Work • Additional analyses on eye-tracking patterns for unsuccessful searchers to understand their performance difficulties
  21. 21. Future of Data Tables • Putting complex data tables online appears to cause usability issues for all age groups (they all re-check their answers) • When displaying complex data online should consider new ways to visualize – Simplified interface – Reduced distracters – Access to apps
  22. 22. Contact info Erica L. Olmsted-Hawala 301-763-4893