2013 in Review: Search Interaction Optimization

On January 1, 2013 I started my PhD studies at Chemnitz University of Technology in cooperation with Unister GmbH, Leipzig. My project is about automatic methods for optimizing search engine results pages (e.g., http://www.google.com/#q=Hello%2C+World!) with respect to result quality and interface usability. The official working title is Search Interaction Optimization: A Design Thinking Approach.

During my first year as a PhD student, I have published three papers (as first author). A full paper about my first milestone has been presented at the International Conference on Knowledge and Information Management (CIKM), which was held in San Francisco in October/November.1 This milestone was about deducing the relevance of search results from user interactions on the search engine results page. Using large amounts of anonymous interaction data from two real-world hotel booking portals, we could show that it is possible to learn according relevance models of reasonable quality.

A second (short) paper was presented at the PhD Symposium of the International Conference on Web Engineering (ICWE) in July.2 The paper addressed the attempt of learning a common model that predicts usability based on training data from a group of similar webpages (e.g., online news articles). However, we concluded that this is not easily possible, because differences in low-level page structure and user intention counter model precision. Thus, additional preprocessing steps are necessary to minimze these influences. The usability evaluation described in this paper was based on a novel instrument for measuring usability whose items have been specifically designed for correlation with client-side interaction features. This Interface Usability Instrument (Inuit) was presented at the workshop “Methodological Approaches to HCI” in September.3 The above described is part of the second milestone of my PhD project, which is about automatic methods for optimizing interface usability. This milestone is my current work-in-progress and will be finished in 2014.

Alright, so much for my research in 2013. I’ll keep you updated with more fine-grained results during the new year.

1 Speicher, Both, Gaedke: “TellMyRelevance! Predicting the Relevance of Web Search Results from Cursor Interactions” (http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/2505515.2505703).
2 Speicher, Both, Gaedke: “Was that Webpage Pleasant to Use? Predicting Usability Quantitatively from Interactions” (http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-04244-2_33).
3 Speicher, Both, Gaedke: “Towards Metric-based Usability Evaluation of Online Web Interfaces” (http://dl.mensch-und-computer.de/handle/123456789/3399).

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