Open Access: Markov chain to analyze web usability of a university website using eye tracking data

Each week, we select a recently published Open Access article to feature. This week’s article comes from Statistical Analysis and Data Mining and uses a Markov chain to to compare the usability of a university website between two groups of users in order how the web usability could be improved. 

Zammarchi, GFrigau, LMola, FMarkov chain to analyze web usability of a university website using eye tracking dataStat Anal Data Min: The ASA Data Sci Journal20211– 11

Web usability is a crucial feature of a website, allowing users to easily find information in a short time. Eye tracking data registered during the execution of tasks allow to measure web usability in a more objective way compared to questionnaires. In this work, we evaluated the web usability of the website of the University of Cagliari through the analysis of eye tracking data with qualitative and quantitative methods. Performances of two groups of students (i.e., high school and university students) across 10 different tasks were compared in terms of time to completion, number of fixations and difficulty ratio. Transitions between different areas of interest (AOI) were analyzed in the two groups using Markov chain. For the majority of tasks, we did not observe significant differences in the performances of the two groups, suggesting that the information needed to complete the tasks could easily be retrieved by students with little previous experience in using the website. For a specific task, high school students showed a worse performance based on the number of fixations and a different Markov chain stationary distribution compared to university students. These results allowed to highlight elements of the pages that can be modified to improve web usability.

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