Effects of linking structure on usability of an electronic database system

The effect of database linking structure on complex search task performance was examined. Database structure was either hierarchical only or hierarchical with added relational links (mixed structure). Participants were asked to provide answers to five complex task scenarios, using one of two versions of a large, unfamiliar database. Participants also completed a questionnaire about their subjective ratings and comments about the database. The results indicated that the mixed structure facilitated better performance with respect to time for task completion and number of information and menu screens visited. No significant difference was found for accuracy/ completeness of response. Likewise, no significant difference was found with respect to subjective satisfaction or cognitive/navigational disorientation. The results appear to support the position that properly implemented relational links aid users in information search tasks.