Comparing Link Marker Visualization Techniques — Changes in Reading Behavior

Hartmut Obendorf, Harald Weinreich

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Abstract:

Links are one of the most important means for navigation in the World Wide Web. However, the visualization of and the interaction with Web links have been scarcely explored, although Links have severe implications on the appearance and usability of Web pages and the World Wide Web as such. This paper presents two studies giving first insights of the effects of link visualization techniques on reading habits and performance. The first user study compares different highlighting techniques for link markers and evaluates their effect on reading performance and user acceptance. The second study examines links-on-demand, links that appear when pressing a dedicated key, and discusses their possible effects on reading and browsing habits. The findings of the conducted studies imply that the standard appearance of link markers has seriously underestimated effects on the usability of Web pages. They can significantly reduce the readability of the text, and alternatives should be carefully considered for the design of future Web browsers.

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