Evaluating the Influence of Interface Styles and Multiple Access Paths in Hypertext

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



No specific guidelines exist to assist in designing usable hypertext systems. In this paper, we discuss three experiments to study usability issues in hypertext design. In the first experiment, we investigated usability of four types of hypertext interfaces: graphical with labeled links (GL), graphical with unlabeled links (GU), textual with embedded links (TE), and textual with a separate list of related items/links (TS). The results favored GL interface for novice users. However, most subjects suggested incorporating multiple access pathways to facilitate search. To determine how hypertext designers could establish, a priori, these multiple structures, we extracted organization schemes from domain experts in the second experiment. Distinctly different organization structures emerged from experts with different professional backgrounds. Therefore, we modified the hypertext to incorporate multiple organization structures. In experiment 3, we compared subjects’ performance using multiple and single organization structures. Multiple structures, contrary to previous evidence, enhanced search performance. The benefits of multiple structures, however, diminished over time. These experiments provide empirical evidence in favor of GL interfaces and incorporation of multiple organization structures to improve hypertext usability.


Presented at the Special Interest Group on Computer-Human Interaction's Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, Boston, MA, April 24-28, 1994