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What are the effects of different search engine interface designs on user behaviour?

Lawrence, Linus Philip (2015) What are the effects of different search engine interface designs on user behaviour?

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Abstract:Studying user behaviour in the context of web search is becoming more and more popular. Search engines are the main way for internet users to conduct informational, navigational and transactional search tasks. The latter is of particular interest, as search engine result pages (SERPs) for transactional queries always include sponsored listings, i.e. ads. These sponsored listings are the main revenue stream for most search engine providers and each click on such a listing means the providers get paid a small sum, also called pay-per-click (PPC). Consequently, this means it is crucial for any search engine provider to design ads that draw the most amount of clicks and different providers use alternative SERP interface designs for transactional search queries. This research focusses on whether there is a difference in transactional search behaviour between different search engine interface designs. Therefore, this study first reviewed scientific as well as non-scientific literature on this topic. Based on this review, we found that an experiment using an eye-tracking device is a very common method for research on user behaviour in online search. The review also revealed that visual hierarchy, competition for attention and banner blindness, are three important factors that may influence transactional search behaviour. This influence was studied by looking at Google and Bing’s different interfaces using an eye-tracking device. In this experiment, participants were required to complete a number of transactional search tasks using both search engines. The results show that only small differences were found in transactional search behaviour for two different search engine interfaces. Regarding the three factors, we found that the way visual hierarchy is organised is not directly related to transactional search behaviour. Moreover, competition for attention was not influential on search behaviour. Lastly, the banner blindness phenomenon only exists to a certain extent and search behaviour is only slightly influenced by this. Overall, this study contributed to a deeper understanding of differences in search behaviour between different search engine interfaces. Although search engine interfaces for transactional queries differ, we see that they have little or no effect on user search behaviour.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:85 business administration, organizational science
Programme:Business Administration MSc (60644)
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