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Volume 4 / Issue 11

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DOI:   10.3217/jucs-004-11-0839


Addressing Design and Usability Issues in Hypertext and on the World Wide Web by Re-Examining the "Lost in Hyperspace" Problem

Yin Leng Theng (Middlesex University, London)

Harold Thimbleby (Middlesex University, London)


Users tend to lose their way in the maze of information within hypertext. Much work done to address the "lost in hyperspace" problem is reactive, that is, doing remedial work to correct the deficiencies within hypertexts because they are (or were) poorly designed and built. What if solutions are sought to avoid the problem? What if we do things well from the start?

This paper reviews the "lost in hyperspace" problem, and suggests a framework to understand the design and usability issues. The issues cannot be seen as purely psychological or purely computing, they are multi-disciplinary. Our proactive, multi-disciplinary approach is drawn from current technologies in sub-disciplines of hypertext, human-computer interaction, cognitive psychology and software engineering. To demonstrate these ideas, this paper presents HyperAT, a hypertext research authoring tool, developed to help designers build usable web documents on the World Wide Web without getting "lost."

Keywords: World Wide Web, authoring tools, cognitive psychology, design, human-computer interaction, hypertext, lost in hyperspace, software engineering, usability