What do exploratory searchers look at in a faceted search interface?

Bill Kules, Robert Capra, Matthew Banta, Tito Sierra. What do exploratory searchers look at in a faceted search interface?. In Fred Heath, Mary Lynn Rice-Lively, Richard Furuta, editors, Proceedings of the 2009 Joint International Conference on Digital Libraries, JCDL 2009, Austin, TX, USA, June 15-19, 2009. pages 313-322, ACM, 2009. [doi]


This study examined how searchers interacted with a web-based, faceted library catalog when conducting exploratory searches. It applied eye tracking, stimulated recall interviews, and direct observation to investigate important aspects of gaze behavior in a faceted search interface: what components of the interface searchers looked at, for how long, and in what order. It yielded empirical data that will be useful for both practitioners (e.g., for improving search interface designs), and researchers (e.g., to inform models of search behavior). Results of the study show that participants spent about 50 seconds per task looking at (fixating on) the results, about 25 seconds looking at the facets, and only about 6 seconds looking at the query itself. These findings suggest that facets played an important role in the exploratory search process.