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Abstract

Finding information within websites is becoming an increasing challenge as the size and the complexity of websites soar. One possible solution is to adapt the view of the site to the task in hand. Although such a procedure is technically feasible, the effectiveness of such designs is yet to be tested. Assuming user scenarios that involve searches by browsing rather than structured queries, we build on models of searching in text to formulate a task representation of searches within websites. This task representation is used to model the effects of adapted websites on performance and satisfaction. We have, therefore, two main aims: (1) to propose a task representation of website searches, and (2) to use it to explore the effect of adaptive designs on performance and satisfaction. In an experiment with a simulated adaptive website, the impact of an adapted site is compared with that of a non-adapted site in terms of time, accuracy, and perceived complexity of completing a search task and satisfaction with the human-computer interaction. The results indicate that adapted sites improve performance but not overall satisfaction. A breakdown of the components of satisfaction reveals that users are unhappy with the changing menus. Part of the explanation may be their perceptions that adaptive sites are less consistent and, therefore, more complex.

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