Visualization of Search Results: A Comparative Evaluation of Text, 2D, and 3D Interfaces

M. M. Sebrechts, J. Vasilakis, M. Miller, J. V. Cugini, and S. J. Laskowski. Visualization of search results: A comparative evaluation of text, 2d, and 3d interfaces. In Proceedings of SIGIR’99, pages 3–10, Berkeley, CA, USA, 1999. [pdf]


This paper present an experimental evaluation of a visual information retrieval interface called NIRVE. The authors confronted a group of users with a three dimensional, two dimensional and text based engine. The results showed a weak effect in favor of the performance of the visualization over the text-based system.

Although there have been many prototypes of visualization in support of information retrieval, there has been little systematic evaluation that distinguishes the benefits of the visualization per se from that of various accompanying features. The current study focuses on such an evaluation of NIRVE, a tool that supports visualization of search results. Insofar as possible, functionally equivalent 3D, 2D, and text versions of NIRVE were implemented. Nine novices and six professional users completed a series of information-seeking tasks on a set of retrieved documents. There were high interface costs for the 3D visualization, although those costs decreased substantially with experience. Performance was best when the tool’s properties matched task demands; only under the right combination of task, user, and interface did 3D visualization result in performance comparable to functionally matched 2D and textual tools.


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