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Conceptual links trump hyperlinks (10 Jul 2002)
The researchers set out to see how well people could mentally map Web sites by asking 40 subjects to explore one of four versions of a Web site, then getting the subjects to draw a map of how the sites' pages were linked together. The different versions contained the same information, but the page links were organized differently.

The results showed a surprising gap between the organization of the Web sites and the resulting mental models. "According to what is frequently assumed... we expected people to be able to remember how the Web site was organized," said Farris. "We expected them to form a survey-like cognitive map of the Web site. They did not," he said.

Instead of depicting the different ways the pages were linked together, the drawings showed how the information related conceptually, said Farris. In fact, the mental models of people who looked at the four different Web site matched. "All participants drew the same thing," said Farris.
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