An empirical investigation into strategies for guiding interactive search.
One activity people engage in when using the web is estimating the likelihood that labelled links will lead to their goal. However, people must also decide whether to select one of the assessed items immediately or make further assessments. There are a number of theoretical accounts of this behaviour. The accounts differ as to whether, for example, they assume that people consider all of the items on a page prior to making a selection, or tend to make a selection immediately following an assessment of a highly relevant item. A series of experiments were conducted to discriminate between these accounts. The empirical studies demonstrated that people are in fact more strategic and sensitive to context than previous models suggest. People sometimes choose an option that appears good enough, but sometimes choose to continue checking. The decision to select an item was found to be sensitive to the relevance of labels in the immediate and distal choice set and also the number of options in the immediately available choice set. The data were used to motivate computational models of interactive search. The development of explicit, formal cognitive models of how people search web sites holds the potential to provide clear and unambiguous information to support future web design and improve usability.