Selfish and Suspicious – Today’s Web User

Jakob Nielsen says people are becoming less patient when they are online, in a recent article on the BBC website. People want to achieve a task and leave, and tend to ignore features intended to make them remain longer on a site.

One of the big changes in recent years, according to Nielsen, is the way people are getting to places on the web; in 2004 40% of people used a site’s homepage as their starting point, now only 25% of people use this route with the great majority finding their goals via search.

Which is a little alarming, when a recent report titled the researcher of the future , by the Centre for Information Behaviour and the Evaluation of Research, says that we all seem to be pretty bad at searching for stuff – when was the last time you used the advanced search function in google?


Report confirms scanning behaviour by readers – back button use also declining

A paper published in ACM Transactions on the web in February 2008 takes a detailed, and scientific look, at peoples behaviour on websites.

Backtracking through a site is no longer so popular, back button usage has been replaced by multiple tabs. Scanning text, rather than reading it, remains the norm. These are the results of work published by researchers who examined peoples behavior in a long term study and compared it with similar studies from the mid ‘90s.

Here’s the reference:

Weinreich, H., Obendorf, H., Mayer, M. (2008). Not Quite the Average: An Empirical Study of Web Use. ACM Transactions on the Web. Vol.2. No. 1.

Their results can be divided into:

The new character of web navigation:

The most significant change is the increased number of pages opened in new windows (reflecting the introduction of this feature in modern browsers), the raised importance of form submissions and a decrease in back button usage. The back button is functioning more as an ‘undo’ tool.

The speed of web navigation:

Only 10% of all visits were longer than two minutes. 75% of all pages were viewed for less than 10 seconds. 25% of all pages were viewed for less than 4 seconds. Pages visited for less than 4 seconds had an average number of 430 words – far more than can be read in that time.

Jakob Nielsen takes a more detailed look at this – How little do users read? – some recent visitor numbers and referrals

The information people at have kindly forwarded me some of the stats from their site – they’ve been using webtrends for the last few months. – external visitors January ’08  – February ’08.

I have not looked at this in any great detail yet but, if you’re impressed by this kind of thing, the sheer volume of visits is rather eye catching (17 000 a day, over 1 million in total). What i find interesting is that, despite this being the enrolment period for international students, the english pages of do not appear at all in the top 20 most viewed.

The referral site information is potentially useful as being ranked highly could suggest that your pathway to, via your institutions website is relatively straightforward.

On a different subject, I’m at an EAIE training course in International Marketing for the remainder of this week – I’ll try and blog about the content.

(I originally used the word statistics in the title of this post – not at all correct and I’ve changed the title accordingly.)

Students blogging about

I found two blogs from students which focus on and their experiences with it: and

Andrei Neculau’s blog is the most recently updated and includes a petition for improving There are also comments from other students, on both these blogs, which give a useful insight into their experiences with our most important online tool for recruiting new students.

Andrei Necelau has also started a facebookgroup – I’ve said previously that we need to support the students when they use, this is an excellent example of the students helping themselves, by sharing information, when they do not get it from the authorities.