ESZTER HARGITTAI'S RESEARCH
Minimizing Hurdles to Accessing
2003. IT & Society. 1(3) Winter.
With the rapid spread of the Internet across society, government
institutions are taking advantage of digital technology to distribute
materials to citizens. Is merely having a Web site enough, or are there
certain usability considerations site creators must keep in mind to assure
efficient public access to online materials? This project looked at
typical people's ability to locate various types of content online, in
particular, their ability to find tax forms on the Web. Findings suggest
that people look for content in a myriad of ways, and there is
considerable variance in how long people take to complete this online
task. Users are often confused by the ways in which content is presented
to them. In this paper, two common sources of confusion in users' online
experiences with locating tax forms online are distinguished: (1) URL
confusion, and (2) page design layout. Ways are also suggested to decrease
these two sources of frustration, yielding less exasperating and more
productive user experiences.
II. Digital Inequality
III. Study Design and Methodology
IV. Searching for Tax Forms Online
V. Sources of Confusion and Frustration
Generous support from the Markle Foundation and NSF grants
#ITR0086143 is kindly acknowledged. The project has also been supported in
part by a grant from the Russell Sage Foundation and through a grant from
the Pew Charitable Trusts to the Center for Arts and Cultural Policy
Studies, Princeton University. and the The author is also grateful to the
Dan David Foundation for its support.
Special thanks to Paul DiMaggio for his insightful comments
this project, Stan Katz for his ongoing support, Erica Field and John
Robinson for helpful discussions, Susan Lutz and Inna Barmash for their
assistance with data collection, Hank Farber and Betty Leydon for their
logistical help, and the many people who took time from their busy
schedules to participate in this study.
This is a pre-print version of the book chapter to appear in the
online journal "IT and Society" Winter 2003 issue.
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