Comparison of thumbnail browsers

This study is a comparison of three different techniques for browsing information on an area larger than the display. The purpose is to investigate in what way information on an electronic bulletin board is best presented. The work is also a contribution to the discussion of whether the frequently used icon technique could be successfully replaced with some other method. The comparison includes the following type of viewers: Iconic, zoom-and-pan, and bifocal.

A test program was developed consisting of a task panel and an electronic bulletin board. The bulletin board contained 30 different notes similar to those normally found on a bulletin board in Swedish homes: timetables, school menus, post cards etc. The tasks involved retrieving specific information from the bulletin board, such as closing time for the library on a certain day, or someone’s phone number.

In a within subjects test 21 subjects answered nine questions for each browser. The subjects were divided into two groups depending on whether they were currently studying at a university or not. Efficiency was measured in task completion time.

We hypothesized that the icon technique would be more efficient to use than the other two, and we expected the zoom-and-pan browser to be easier to navigate than the bifocal viewer. We also expected the students to perform better than the non-students.

The results confirmed our first hypothesis: The iconic browser gave better results than both the zoom-and-pan browser and the bifocal viewer. Subjects also seemed to prefer the icons, since most were used to them. However, in contradiction to our hypothesis about the zoom-and-pan technique being more efficient than the bifocal viewer, no significant difference was found between these two techniques. Finally, the test showed that students performed better than non-students, even though there was no difference in experience with computers between the groups.

Author: Hedman, Anna

Source: LuleƄ University of Technology

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