How users determine the quality of a Web page
Dudziak, Karin Quinones
Osherson, Daniel N.
Doctor of Philosophy
The World Wide Web and search engines are widely used, and getting good results from searches is important. Research has shown that there are measurable, quantitative features of Web pages that relate to the quality of the Web page. There is little existing research that has examined a set of Web pages, rated by representative users, to determine what Web page features may predict users' ratings about the quality of the pages. This is the first study to apply policy capturing, a methodology to capture the cues people use in making judgments or ratings, to determine how a group of representative users made judgments about various Web pages. Search engines could utilize these features in examining Web pages to provide more useful results. The features of the Web pages examined were page length, links, images, keywords per page, and keywords per title. Users rated 40 Web pages on the relevancy, ease of understanding, and trustworthiness of the page in three separate topic areas. Analyses included the amount of variance accounted for, weighting of individual cues, complexity of the decision process, participants' insight into their own rating methodology, and the role of individual difference variables. Free response data were gathered about what other features influenced participants' ratings. Overall, average ratings on the three dependent variables ranged from 60--70 out of 100. The beta weights and R2 for the independent variables were low to moderate. Keywords were shown to be an important predictor in the page or title depending on the topic area. Links and images were more important for noninformation-centric topics. Most people used one of the five linear cues significantly, and more complex, nonlinear relationships were also found. For example, keywords increased the value of a page up to a point, but beyond that point the benefit decreased (a quadratic relationship). The amount of insight into how decisions were made about pages varied among participants from none to nearly perfect. Many of the variables and results varied significantly by topic area. Policy capturing is a good methodology for examining this issue, but additional Web page features should be tested.
Cognitive psychology; Computer science