Joseph Shawn Farris, Ph.D.

Advisor: Dr. Keith Jones

Dissertation Title

The human-Web interaction cycle: A proposed and tested framework of perception, cognition, and action on the Web

Dissertation Abstract

Since its inception, the World Wide Web has flourished. While advances have been made in the general area of web usability, little attention has been paid to developing theories of human-web interaction. Accordingly, a framework is proposed and tested, which unifies research on the users' actions, perceptions, and knowledge, while interacting with websites.

In general, the proposed framework describes the cyclical process that users undertake as they explore the web. Specifically, while they interact with a website, in order to locate certain pieces of information, they sample only goal-relevant information from the website. Users then modify their knowledge of the system, based on the goal-relevant information that was acquired. This newly modified system knowledge then directs their interaction further.

Two experiments investigated the proposed framework. Experiment 1 tested (1) whether or not users' system knowledge directs their interaction with a website and (2) whether or not the acquired information modifies the user's system knowledge. The results suggested that the users' knowledge about the system influenced how they explored, i.e., interacted with, the website and that the information acquired from that interaction added to and changed the users' system knowledge. Experiment 2 tested whether or not users sample only goal-relevant information. If so, then only that information should modify the users' system knowledge. The results, however, suggested that knowledge about a website's structure is either difficult or impossible to acquire, regardless of the users' goals. On the other hand, the quantity of content system knowledge that was acquired appeared to be superior when goals related to content and not structure. Implications for the proposed framework and web design are discussed.


Ph.D., Psychology, Kansas State University, 2003