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Effects of navigation aids on web performance in younger and older adults

C.E. Hudson, C.T. Scialfa, R. Diaz-Marino, J. Laberge, S.D. MacKillop

Gerontechnology 2008; 7(1):3-21 doi:


Age-related differences in web navigation were examined in two experiments, one (N=44) examining search performance and memory for site structure and a second (N=61) investigating search and memory for site content. Participants searched a large website under one of two experimental conditions; a control condition with only basic navigation aids or a condition with more enhanced navigation aids available. In Experiment 1, the enhanced navigation aids were breadcrumbs and a dynamic side-tree (BC-DST), whereas in Experiment 2 only the dynamic side-tree (DST) was available. In Experiment 1, search was more efficient for both age groups in the BC-DST condition. Age differences in search time and recall of the website’s structure could be eliminated by controlling for working memory and processing speed. In Experiment 2, navigation speed improved with practice and there were larger improvements observed for older adults. Navigation tools did not improve performance in either age group. Younger adults had better memory for content than their older counterparts. Contrary to the hypothesis that older adults are more frequently ‘lost’ in their search, age was not associated with the number of pages or repeat pages visited. Future research should focus on alleviating cognitive demands of search in more representative groups of older users.
Keywords: web navigation; adults; age differences; memory; navigation speed

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Gerontechnology (ISSN/EISSN 1569-1101 1569-111X) is the official journal of the International Society for Gerontechnology