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Can the navigation of complex research websites be improved so that users more often find their way without intermediation or instruction? Librarians at Eastern Michigan University discovered both anecdotally and by looking at patterns in usage statistics that some students were not recognizing navigational elements on web-based research guides, and so were not always accessing secondary pages of the guides. In this study, two types of navigation improvements were applied to separate sets of online guides. Usage patterns from before and after the changes were analyzed. Both sets of experimental guides showed an increase in use of secondary guide pages after the changes were applied whereas a comparison group with no navigation changes showed no significant change in usage patterns. In this case, both duplicate menu links and improvements to tab design appeared to improve independent student navigation of complex research sites.


This peer-reviewed article was originally published in Information Technology and Libraries, vol. 31, no. 3 (2012).

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