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Title: The impact of learning styles and cultural background on users' experience of websites
Author: Seneler, Cagla
ISNI:       0000 0004 5358 2702
Awarding Body: University of York
Current Institution: University of York
Date of Award: 2014
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Many different types of people now use websites for many sources of information. Nevertheless, the diversity and complexity of the online information available on websites and the desire to make websites provide all information for all users, regardless of their interest, ability or characteristics, means that websites can be overwhelming to users. Museum websites are a case in point, trying to provide information to a great diversity of users. For these reasons, there have been numerous efforts to individualize user experiences in websites. These efforts have been based on users’ individual or group differences such as their goals, interests, preferences, knowledge, backgrounds, demographic characteristics, experience, learning styles, and culture. This programme of research investigates whether learning styles as an individual difference and cultural background as a group difference can affect web users’ experience, performance and perceived usability by conducting a card sort study, an interview study and an ecologically valid study of users’ experience with museum websites. To investigate learning styles, the Felder-Silverman Learning Style Model was used with its associated Felder-Solomon Index of Learning Styles (ILS). The ILS was developed in English, making it unsuitable for Turkish learners, one of the target cultural groups for this research programme. Therefore, the ILS was translated into Turkish and adequate reliability and validity established by administering it twice over a four-week interval to 63 undergraduate students in Turkey. Henceforth, the Turkish version of the ILS will be referred as the Turkish Index of Learning Styles (T)ILS. The aim of the card sort study was to investigate user understandings of the organization of the museum and news websites and to reveal learning styles and cultural differences between participants’ categorizations and mental models of the information architectures. The study was conducted in UK and Turkey with 214 and 90 participants, respectively. Analysis of the data showed that participants have mental models that differ substantially from the typical websites in these domains. In addition, interesting and meaningful differences were found between participants with different learning styles profiles and among British, Chinese, Indian and Turkish participants. This study also made a methodological contribution, showing that the card sort method can be used to show learning styles and cultural differences. The aim of the interview study was to investigate the perceptions of museum personnel concerning the adaptation of websites in relation to both learning styles and cultural differences among visitors and to investigate whether they were interested in these issues. Five developers from Turkey and five developers from UK and USA were interviewed and content analysis was used to analyze their responses. The study showed that almost none of the interviewees were aware of the concept of learning styles, but the majority were very interested when they were told about it. Furthermore, a majority of interviewees thought learning styles had potential to make their websites more appealing to a wider range of visitors. Lastly, most interviewees were interested in the idea of dealing with cultural differences in other ways than mere translation of texts. The final study investigated how learning styles and cultural differences affect users’ experience, performance and perception of the usability of two museum websites. It was administered in the UK with an international sample of 210 participants. Participants were asked to perform a number of tasks on these websites, the tasking being carefully chosen to direct participants to aspects of the websites that would suit particular learning styles. This study showed significant differences among users depending on their learning styles and cultural background. This study also makes an important methodological contribution in that moves away from the paradigm of trying to manipulate online materials to match or clash with users’ learning styles or other preferences. The results of this research programme will be important for developers of museum and similar websites who want to take the advantage of developing supportive websites by focusing on users’ learning styles and cultural differences.
Supervisor: Petrie, Helen Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available