|Title:||Entering through the Side Door—A Usage Analysis of Web Presentations|
|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 http://nordbotten.com/museum. 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.