About

My name is Gemma Fitzsimmons and I completed a PhD in Web Science at the University of Southampton. The nature of my research lends itself be in interdisciplinary covering both Psychology and the HCI section of Computer Science. PHD Comics has a relevant comic for my situation.

My PhD will focused on Reading, Interacting with and Processing Hypertext on the Web.

During reading we move our eyes in order to bring new information into our fovea where the highest visual acuity is present. By measuring eye movements we can gain insights into the online cognitive processing that is occurring during a task. Eye movements have been used extensively to help us to understand the cognitive processing that occurs during reading, but there has been very little research into how our reading differs when we read information on the Web to for instance reading a novel. One of the main differences between reading plain text and reading on the Web could be the presence of hyperlinks. Web pages often contain hyperlinks on single words, a string of words or a phrase and these links are related to a Web page or online resource. Hyperlinks are usually denoted by making the hyperlinked text blue.

I explored if and how hyperlinks affect reading on the Web and examined whether the increased saliency of hyperlinks has any effect on how people read and when and where they move their eyes. I also investigated how reading is affected by the various tasks that we engage in while reading on the Web. For example while on the Web we may be reading for comprehension, searching or skimming for relevant information or navigating the information space. We also make numerous decisions about whether to follow a hyperlink or continue reading the information on the current Webpage.

By utilising eye tracking technology such as the Eyelink 1000 eye tracker we can observe the online cognitive processes of users while they read and engage with Webpages. By determining how users process the content on Webpages the results of this research will be used to inform Web design and how information can be best organised on the Web for users.