Title:Entering through the Side Door—A Usage Analysis of Web Presentations
Authors:Joan Nordbotten
Publication:MW2000: Museums and the Web 2000

Guidelines for Web site design include presentation structure and the use of descriptors for each component page. A hierarchic structure facilitates theme development through initial presentation of thematic context followed by thematic details placed within the structure. However, a presentation with well described detail pages invites search engine entry through the “side-door,” i.e. directly to detail pages within the presentation structure by using the page descriptors. A virtual visitor can quickly get lost, loose interest, and go away, without discovering the context of the retrieved information. This paper presents a 3-year usage study based on the log data collected from a hypermedia exhibit designed to present a sampling of research projects in the social sciences. The exhibit has resided at 3 locations, in a natural science museum as part of a traditional exhibit, as an information kiosk, and currently as an independent Web site at Users from the general public of each location were free to explore the exhibit. The underlying purpose of the study has been to study usage patterns for in-house hypermedia presentations vs Web presentations. If the usage patterns observed for in-house presentations are similar to those for Web presentations, than they could be used as guidelines for Web presentation development. Our data shows little similarity between the in-house and Web usage patterns. Most, 80%, of the Web sessions were started from a search engine request, of which 60 % started at a detail page. These latter sessions were significantly shorter (p=0.00039) than sessions begun at the start of the exhibit.