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Designer Specified Self Re-organizing Websites

Thursday, 22 September, 2005 - 16:00
Campus: Brussels Humanities, Sciences & Engineering campus
Faculty: Science and Bio-engineering Sciences
Sven Casteleyn
phd defence

The days where a web site consisted of a small amount of linked pages lie far
behind us. Today, web sites are complex applications, containing large amounts of
constantly changing information and functionality. To avoid usability problems
typically associated with large ad hoc designed web sites, a systematic, wellstructured
approach is required. Web site design methods address this need by
separating the different design concerns involved in web site creation: requirements
analysis, data design, navigation design, presentation design and implementation.
By focussing on one aspect at a time, the designer is better able to cope with the
intricacy of web site design, thereby improving the quality and usability of the
resulting web site. However, even with the use of web design methods, the design
of web sites is not an easy task. Due to the large variety in targeted visitors, each
with different goals and intentions, and the diversity of the offered information and
functionality, devising an efficient and easy to grasp site organization and
navigation structure proves difficult. Taking into account web site usage
information could help the designer to gain a better insight in the browsing
behaviour of the users and to provide the best-suited design. However at design
time this information is usually not available. Manual analysis of web site access
logs is already applied, possibly resulting in manual changes or a complete redesign
of the web site. The approach suggested in this dissertation goes one step further:
to offer the web designer, during design, the ability to anticipate and react upon
web site usage information. The result is adaptive web sites: sites that
automatically improve their organization and presentation based on user access
data. It is argued in this dissertation that the use of adaptation strategies, which
are (design) specifications of how a web site can adaptively change (at runtime)
based on user access information (from all users), aids the designer to improve the
usability of web sites. Using adaptation strategies, a designer can anticipate
runtime browsing behaviour, validate certain design decisions, automatically select
between design alternatives and help the web site owner to better achieve business
goals. The work is presented in the context of WSDM, an existing web design
method. To support adaptive behaviour, an adaptation specification language has
been defined, which allows the designer to specify, at design time, the adaptive
behaviour that is allowed at runtime. The adaptation specification language is
exemplified with three useful adaptation strategies, each illustrating one of the
aforementioned benefits. To validate our ideas, a prototype implementation to
support WSDM design and implementation, with adaptation support, was
performed. The prototype was used to implement a case study, which
demonstrates the applicability and effectiveness of designer specified adaptation
strategies to automatically re-organize the web site (navigation) structure and