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The effects of system response time on user behavior in a hypermedia environment

, Indiana University, United States

Indiana University . Awarded


What information location strategies are available to users of hypermedia systems? Are they similar to those available when using traditional information retrieval systems? Given that information must compete for limited space in short-term memory, additional research is necessary to determine changes in user behavior when the variable of delay is introduced. The need to frequently refresh short-term memory about information previously seen may interfere with the selection of an appropriate strategy with which to continue an information-location task when delays become significant.

A secondary issue is that of general computing experience. The assumption is that more experience should lead to the automation of cognitive strategies. However, the literature is not clear on this point. Thus, the effect of computer experience on strategy selection, as well as the interaction of delay and experience, requires additional study.

Seventy-four participants used Hypertext on Hypertext, a specialized hypermedia system, to complete three information location tasks. A multivariate Analysis of Variance with independent variables of Group (No Delay and 5-second Delay) and General Computer Experience (<1 year, 1–3 years, and >3 years) indicated significant main effects of Group for all dependent variables with one exception. There were no significant main effects of General Computer Experience, nor were there any interactions between the two independent variables.

Analyses of user behavior support the notion that a short delay produces two distinct strategies of information location. When there was a delay, users tended to employ a “locate-in-depth” strategy: they viewed longer strings of consecutive screens in the same section (i.e., “page-turning”), and used reference areas such as the Index more often.

When no delay was present, users tended to employ a “locate- in-breadth” strategy: they frequently switched from one section to another, viewed more screens of information, took longer to complete the tasks, and tended to backtrack more often.

One unexpected result of the study was that regardless of the strategy employed, or affective factors such as frustration, all users were able to complete at least one of the assigned tasks to some degree. This accounts for the dependent variable that did not achieve significance in the MANOVA.


Child, D.A. The effects of system response time on user behavior in a hypermedia environment. Ph.D. thesis, Indiana University. Retrieved August 12, 2020 from .

This record was imported from ProQuest on October 23, 2013. [Original Record]

Citation reproduced with permission of ProQuest LLC.

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