Impact of Spatial Visualization Aptitude on WWW Navigation

James Blustein*, Ishtiaq Ahmed, Haris Parvaiz, Ching-Lung Fu, Caixia Wang, Alexander (Sandy) Chapman, Yeming Hu
Faculty of Computer Science Dalhousie University 6050 University Avenue, Halifax, Nova Scotia, B3H 1W5, Canada.

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Blustein et al.; Licensee Bentham Open

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Faculty of Computer Science Dalhousie University 6050 University Avenue, Halifax, Nova Scotia, B3H 1W5, Canada; E-mail:


Although the underlying mechanism is not well understood, there is considerable evidence that the constellation of cognitive factors known as ‘spatial aptitude’ influences users’ performance in information spaces.

Evidence of the effect in the computer science literature is contradictory: some studies show that techniques, which support users with lower aptitude, retard performance by those with higher aptitude. We have investigated the effect of the visualization subfactor in a real-world navigation task using location menu breadcrumbs and Dillon’s IMRD task.

We compared the navigational styles and success rates in an answer seeking task using both standard and menu breadcrumbs in a large website. The higher aptitude group was significantly more efficient and used the Back button less than the lower aptitude group.

We discuss implications for explaining why spatial aptitude affects success with hypertext, the potential for practical application, and ongoing follow-up work.

Keywords: Hypertext, navigation, cognitive factors, WWW, adaptive hypermedia, spatial ability/aptitude, information architecture, information shape, performance of document systems.