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The art of navigating through hypertext
Nielsen J. (ed) Communications of the ACM33 (3):296-310,1990.Type:Article
Date Reviewed: Oct 1 1990

Several ad hoc studies performed while testing the usability of a hypertext interface were concerned primarily with the issue of navigation through a hypertext application. One of the major problems with hypertext systems is that users become disoriented while accessing the information. In an attempt to correct this problem, the author designed an interface that is intended to remind users where they are. The interface includes such features as (a) the presentation of text using a book metaphor, (b) the display of a global overview diagram to the user, and (c) the display of a local overview diagram to the user. Various usage records are also maintained by the system and can be displayed whenever necessary.

Although interesting to someone unfamiliar with hypertext systems, the paper fails to offer any new solutions to the problem of disorientation among hypertext users. Indeed, it only provokes a number of questions concerning the consistency of the author’s prototype interface. For example, I wonder why the author did not use the book theme in the design of the navigation tools. It would have been more logical to display an overview of the system as a series of chapters and sections rather than as a set of nodes and links. Moreover, the author fails to address the real design question, which is how to increase the number, levels, and complexity of the global and local displays as the information increases. Until this question is answered, hypertext users will continue to get lost in hyperspace.

Reviewer:  K. M. Swigger Review #: CR114506
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