I was informed by Mr. Michael Douma, Executive Director of Institute for Dynamic Educational Advancement (IDEA), about his recent study on Finding Information: Factors that Improve Online Experiences yesterday. Mr. Douma was kind to invite me to read the executive summary of the report and provide me a link to download a PDF version of the findings.
This is an interesting study. IDEA conducted this study to determine how people find information online and how the experience of Web site visitors can be improved. The intent of the IDEA’s study is trying to improve the ways people interact with technology.
The study covered three groups: non-profit organizations and cities; web designers and firms; and the general public and attempted to answer the following questions:
- What makes a Web site effective?
- What factors contribute to visitors’ enjoyment of a Web site? Does this vary by segments within each population?
- From a visitors’ perspective, what factors determine a quality Web site?
- Are there differences between visitors’ needs as perceived by organizations and designers, and those reported by visitors themselves?
The study received 563 clean responses from nonprofit organizations and cities, 250 from web designers and firms, and 1,675 from the general public. Major findings are:
- Designers underestimate the thresholds for an effective site. Visitors have higher expectations for effectiveness than do designers.
- Easy access to complete information is key to visitor enjoyment.
- Good visual design and up-to-date information are critical.
- Visitors want information fast.
- Visitors want a broad range of topics.
- Designers are overly optimistic about visitors’ ability to maintain orientation.
- Visitors still need handholding.
- Visitors point to the lack of breadth and depth of site content as causing an “Information Gap.”
As an online educator, I think the results of this study provide many useful information and ideas on designing educational Web sites or online courses that allow learners to easily find information and orient themselves on the Web site. For more details about the study as well as its findings, you can download the 17 page report in PDF at: http://www.idea.org/find-information.pdf