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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/K000330/1
Title: Models and Measures of Findability
Principal Investigator: Azzopardi, Dr L
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
UXlabs Ltd
Department: School of Computing Science
Organisation: University of Glasgow
Scheme: First Grant - Revised 2009
Starts: 01 November 2012 Ends: 21 January 2014 Value (£): 97,376
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Information & Knowledge Mgmt
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Information Technologies
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
18 Jul 2012 EPSRC ICT Responsive Mode - July 2012 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Designing and organizing a website or any other information space is a complex process where the goal is to create structure around content that enables users to complete their tasks (such as finding the relevant information and performing associated transactions) in a seamless and efficient manner. Typically, Information Architecture techniques are applied in an attempt to improve a site's usability and the overall user experience by optimizing ``the structural design of an information space to facilitate task completion and intuitive access to content'' Although there are numerous principles and heuristics that have been developed, Information Architecture as a discipline, lacks formal models for evaluating or predicting whether such techniques will improve the usability of a website. In this project, we aim to develop formal models to measure, analyze and evaluate how easily a site can be navigated and the information within it can be retrieved. Such a model would provide a way to objectively measure what is colloquially termed, ``Ambient Findability'', i.e. the ease with which a given information object can be found. If the structure of a particular website precludes users from intuitively and easily locating key information, then in competitive online environments users are likely to abandon the site in favour of alternative sites that provide competing services or information. For example, online retailers need to ensure that users can quickly and easily find and locate the products and services offered along with related information such as product reviews, help files, and other supporting information. Consequently, the ability to determine or predict the findability of information objects such as key web pages is vital.

While various measures have been developed to objectively quantify how easily a user can navigate a website, or how easily a user can retrieve a particular page, =these techniques are often very coarse grained in nature. They ignore the needs or goals of users in their calculations which directly influence how easily a user could locate an object. They are agnostic to design in every sense, and thus ignore key issues such as layout, location and the visibility of links within web pages and the user's broader task context. Moreover, they assume each user is equally likely to select a given link (i.e. acting as a random surfer), and ignore well-known patterns and strategies of user behavior. Thus, they provide little value to practicing Information Architects who require more sophisticated, behavioral measures that accommodate these dimensions. To this end, this project will attempt to model more accurately the interaction of users with webpages and sites to provide an estimate of the probability of a particular page being found by different users groups with particular information needs/intentions.

The development of concrete mathematical and probabilistic models of findability and measures that capture the complex interactions of users, systems and information resources will be a significant achievement that will advance research and development into understanding behaviors, improving components and maximizing the findability of information. To determine the utility of these measurements, this project will take the theory out of the lab environment and evaluate the measures in operational settings with practicing Information Architects. This evaluation will provide external verification and validation of the theory and models developed to demonstrate how the measures can be deployed and utilized in practice.

Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Date Materialised
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Organisation Website: http://www.gla.ac.uk