oa South African Journal of Information Management - How Web browsers shape users' understanding of networks

Volume 2 Number 2
  • ISSN : 2078-1865
  • E-ISSN: 1560-683X



What happens when users encounter breakdown situations when browsing the Web? This article is a report on a study in which 35 participants were asked to think aloud while following a trail through a series of Web pages. Some of the pages were designed to cause error messages to be displayed by the browser when users tried to interact with them. The results from the study showed that the error messages did not help users to diagnose the cause of the problem, or develop their understanding of the Internet. Error messages do provide a vocabulary for descriptionbing problems, but fail to provide a model to pin the terminology on. It is suggested that an underlying model of Web browsing should be available for users to learn from the error messages, rather than just see them as a sign of 'something being wrong'.

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