Users Engage More with Interface than Materials at Welsh Newspapers Online Website
AbstractA Review of:
Gooding, P. (2016). Exploring the information behaviour of users of Welsh Newspapers Online through web log analysis. Journal of Documentation, 72(2), 232-246.
Objective – This study has two specific objectives: to learn about the behaviours of visitors to the Welsh Newspapers Online (WNO) website, and to explore how the identified behaviours are different from those common to information-seeking in a physical archive.
Design – Analysis of Google Analytics and web server content logs.
Setting – Welsh Newspapers Online website: http://newspapers.library.wales
Subjects – WNO had 19,805 unique visitors from 12 March 2013 to 30 June 2013, who made 52,767 visits to the site.
Methods – Gooding accessed the WNO Google Analytics account, which provided visitor numbers, user engagement by page visit and visit duration, bounce rate, and mobile and social media usage. Using anonymized processed content logs provided by the National Library of Wales, he then explored searches undertaken by users on the website; instances where users browsed, filtered, or otherwise interacted with search results; and instances where users viewed content.
Main Results – Google Analytics statistics showed users of WNO demonstrate behaviour that is “deeper and more sustained than general web browsing” (p. 237). The number of visitors who only viewed one page and then left the site (bounce rate) was low, while page views and time spent on the site were higher than considered standard on general websites. Mobile users made up 11% of visits, although on average they viewed fewer pages and stayed for less time than non-mobile users. Screen size was directly correlated to the level of engagement. There were 9% of visitors referred via social media, but generally showed a low engagement rate similar to that of mobile users; the exception was users who were directed to WNO via blogging platforms.
Web log analysis showed visitors most frequently accessed newspapers from the 1840s and 1850s. They viewed the title page much more frequently than any other page in the newspapers, likely reflecting that the title page is default when users access a paper via browsing. A correlation between time spent on the site and searching versus engaging with content was found: the longer a visitor was on WNO, the less time they spent searching, and the more time spent engaging with content. Still, as Gooding reports, “over half of all pageviews are dedicated to interacting with the web interface rather than the historical sources” (p. 240).
Conclusion – WNO visitors spend more of their time interacting with the site’s interface than with digitized content, making it important that interface design be a high priority when designing online archives. Gooding concludes that despite a focus on interface, visitors are still engaged in a research process similar to that found in an offline archive and that “a differently remediated experience is not necessarily any less rich” (p. 242).
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