Information needs and practices of active mobile internet users

Heimonen, T. Information needs and practices of active mobile internet users. In Proceedings of the 6th International Conference on Mobile Technology, Application & Systems (New York, NY, USA, 2009), Mobility ’09, ACM, pp. 50:1–50:8. [PDF]

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The authors of this paper looked at the effect of dataplan on smartphones have on mobile information needs and poractices. The authors used a diary study with 8 participants over the course of two weeks. Participants were filling a web form where they were asked to answer a certain number of questions (where / when / what / how / did you find what you were looking for?). They used a strict definition of information needs: need for a piece of informationthat you cannot recall from memory or that is not immediately available to you and that you would likely spend few minutes attempting to solve it while mobile.

They classified with simple coding the information needs into 15 topical categories. They divided the needs into utilitarian (pragmatic) and hedonic (entertainment). Most of the needs, 45%, were addressed immediately. The majority of the users answered the needs through web search. Interestingly, they also found that the contributing reasonto the information need is not easily attributable to any environmental factor (33% of the times).

The paper also presents some nice implications for design, such as the use of communal knowledge to solve mobile search needs. Also, they suggested several techniques to take advantage of the user’s interaction to predict mobile information needs.

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