Using access information in the dynamic visualisation of web sites
Includes bibliographical references.
Log file analysis provides a cost-effective means to detennine web site usage. However, current methods of displaying log analysis results tend to be limited in that they either contain no reference to a web site's structure, or else they portray this structure as a standard graph or tree. This dissertation presents a visual representation of web server log information, which addresses these limitations by incorporating log file data into a visualisation of a web site's layout. The devised visualisation utilizes properties unique to web sites in order to create a compromise between the clutter-prone network graph and the infonnation incomplete tree representations that have traditionally been used to depict web sites. As such, the visualisation emphasises typical web site features such as the home page, sub-sites and navigation bars. This approach pennitted the introduction of the concept of implying the presence of links without explicitly rendering them. This notion has many implications, not least of which is the reduction of cluttering. The visualisation combined several other techniques to address the issues of structure and data representation, data exploration, scalability and context maintenance. Assessment of the visualisation consisted of a heuristic evaluation by an expert from the web site usage industry, a test to detelmine the intuitiveness of the representation, and a series of user experiments. Results of the assessment were generally promising although a few areas of concern, such as the difficulty experienced by users in navigating the visualisation with a trackball, were identified. These issues should not prove to be too difficult to overcome however. The visualisation could thus be said to have successfully met the aim of developing a representation of web site usage infonnation that incorporates site structure and treats web sites as unique entities, thereby taking advantage of their particular characteristics. It is hoped such a visualisation will be of benefit to web site designers and administrators in analysing and ultimately improving their web sites.