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Communications of the ACM

Communications of the ACM

The art of navigating through hypertext

Hypertext (3), (19), (25) is becoming a popular approach to many computer applications, especially those dealing with the on-line presentation of large amounts of loosely structured information such as on-line documentation or computer-aided learning. There are still many issues concerning hypertext that remain to be resolved, however, many of which are in the user interface area. One of the major usability problems with hypertext is the user's risk of disorientation while navigating the information space. For example, our studies [23] showed that 56 percent of the readers of a document written in one of the most popular commercial hypertext systems agreed fully or partly with the statement I was often confused about ‘where I was. ’ To investigate a number of user interface options in hypertext systems we designed a prototype system in the form of a hypertext report on events at the 1987 hypertext workshop. This system was implemented on an Apple Macintosh with Hypercard as the programming system. (To get a feel for our hypertext system, the reader is encouraged to review Figures 1 to 10 which contain screen dumps of a session with the system and thus constitute a kind of printed demonstration or guided tour.) Hypertext is a very dynamic form of human-computer interaction and can only be fully appreciated in an interactive environment. However, even these figures give a much better understanding of the system than a traditional textual description could give.

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