Impact of placing icons next to hyperlinks on information-retrieval tasks on the web


Though several studies have demonstrated the usefulness of pictures in multimedia learning, memory, cognitive load and visual search, there have been very few attempts to study their impact in the web-navigation scenario. Also, cognitive models of web-navigation (like CoLiDeS, CoLiDeS+) ignore the information from visual modality and focus solely on the information from text. We conducted an experiment to study the extent to which providing icons next to hyperlinks facilitates information retrieval tasks on the web. Three different versions of navigation styles were created: Hyperlinks with Icons, Hyperlinks alone and Icons alone. Users took significantly less time, were significantly less disoriented and made fewer clicks to finish their tasks when icons were provided along with hyperlink text. These results suggest that it is important for a cognitive model on web-navigation to include information from pictures. An important practical implication is to provide meaningful icons next to hyperlinks for better navigation.

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