Towards the design of an electronic journal
The main focus of this thesis is on the design of an electronic academic journal. The thesis commences with an examination of the way in which the paper-based journal system is used, in order to identify its associated problems, which may be alleviated through the use of the electronic medium, and those features which should be retained in an electronic journal system The use of location as an incidental navigation cue by readers of both paper and electronic documents is explored. It is concluded that, although of significant benefit, certain types of location cues are lost in the electronic medium, and other navigation aids must therefore be found. Although it may be possible to imitate paper documents on screen, there are several arguments against such an approach. Hypertext systems enable the capabilities of the electronic medium to be more fuIly exploited, and make it possible to use alternative document structures, but these may present problems for readers. The major difficulty would appear to be that, due to the flexible access which hypertext permits, readers get lost. A series of studies was therefore conducted examining the utility of various facilities in assisting readers to navigate through a hypertext document. A number of features were identified which helped readers to relocate information from within the hypertext, and it would appear that the same facilities were of benefit for both hierarchical and web structured documents. It was also found that navigation efficiency was positively correlated with the ability to construct an accurate map of the document's structure. In the final study, a database of journal articles containing the facilities derived from the previous studies was constructed, and performance in an essay-question type task was compared using two interfaces to the database. The frrst was a chronological list of the articles in the database, and the second contained the same navigation facilities as the individual articles. Objective and subjective performance measures both pointed to the superiority of the second type of interface, and these findings are discussed in the context of future electronic journal systems.