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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Presentation of hyperlinks as a factor in information overload and subjective responses to web-based health information Liu, Yifan


This study investigated how the visual saliency of hyperlinks as a web page design element impacts people’s perceived information overload (IO) and subjective states in the case of COVID-19 vaccination information. An experimental study was conducted, in which a total of 82 participants were randomly assigned to three conditions that differed with respect to the visual salience of hyperlinks leading to additional information sources. After completing an information-seeking task, participant’s IO level and subjective state were measured using adapted scales. Statistical analysis of scale data and thematic analysis of open-ended responses were used to analyze the data. Findings indicate an impact of visual saliency of hyperlinks on people’s IO reactions. Specifically, using accordion menus distributed throughout the page to dynamically hide many of the hyperlinks, participants’ perceived IO levels were significantly reduced. Participants’ IO reactions were negatively correlated with their subjective states, although no significant differences in subjective states across conditions were observed. Further design manipulation to reduce the visual saliency of hyperlinks by clustering them at the bottom of the page had no effect on IO, indicating that visual salience is not the only factor to consider when designing pages with high numbers of hyperlinks. The study results indicate that people do feel overloaded when looking for online health information, even arising from the experience of using a single web page, and the web page design elements do attract their attention and influence their information-seeking behaviour and experience. In conclusion, this thesis makes a valuable contribution by conducting an experimental study to understand the influence of hyperlinks’ visual saliency on people’s perceived IO and subjective states.

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