The relationship between internet user type and user performance when carrying out simple vs. complex search tasks

Singer, G., Pruulmann-Vengerfeldt, P., Norbisrath, U., & Lewandowski, D. (2012). The relationship between Internet user type and user performance when carrying out simple vs. complex search tasks. First Monday, 17(6).

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It is widely known that people become better at an activity if they perform this activity long and often. Yet, the question is whether being active in related areas like communicating online, writing blog articles or commenting on community forums have an impact on a person’s ability to perform Web searches, is still unanswered. Web searching has become a key task conducted online; in this paper we present our findings on whether the user type, which categorises a person’s online activities, has an impact on her or his search capabilities. We show (1) the characteristics of different user types when carrying out simple search tasks; (2) their characteristics when carrying out complex search tasks; and, (3) the significantly different user type characteristics between simple and complex search tasks. The results are based on an experiment with 56 ordinary Web users in a laboratory environment. The Search–Logger study framework was used to analyze and measure user behavior when carrying out a set of 12 predefined search tasks. Our findings include the fact that depending on task type (simple or complex) significant differences can be observed between users of different types.