Searching and browsing on e-commerce sites: Frequency, efficiency and rationale

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Title: Searching and browsing on e-commerce sites: Frequency, efficiency and rationale
Author: Katz, Michael A.
Advisor: Byrne, Michael D.
Degree: Doctor of Philosophy thesis
Abstract: Two experiments were conducted to investigate product finding behavior on e-commerce Web sites, focusing on the use of product menus or site search functions to locate products. Experiment 1 sought to characterize typical product finding behavior on e-commerce sites, and to shed light on the user's decision to browse a product menu or use a site search function to locate products. The results yielded a wide distribution of searching and browsing behavior and found that use of the site search functions did not yield faster or more accurate performance in locating products. Questionnaire data suggested that perceived effectiveness of the menu structure, menu and search function prominence, and the user's disposition toward using search functions all influenced the decision of whether to browse or search a site for a product, with the principle known as "information scent" playing a particularly important role. Experiment 2 used experimentally controlled novel e-commerce sites to investigate the factors suggested to be important to product finding behavior by Experiment 1. The goal was to determine whether product finding behavior could be influenced via the manipulation of site design factors. The results provided evidence that such behavior could be manipulated through site design and supported the role of Experiment 1 factors in the decision process of the user. As a whole, the results suggest that product finding behavior is dependent upon both the characteristics of the site as well as the user. They also suggest that the efficiency of the menu structure of a site appears to be as critical to its usability as the fidelity of its search function. Further implications are also discussed.
Citation: Katz, Michael A.. (2001) "Searching and browsing on e-commerce sites: Frequency, efficiency and rationale." Doctoral Thesis, Rice University.
Date: 2001

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