Causal effects of wiki site design on anxiety and usability
Cowan, Benjamin Richard
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Within society Information Technology (IT) is becoming pervasive. This is no more pronounced than in Higher Education where IT is almost ubiquitously used. Current developments have also seen Web 2.0 tools such as wikis being used in pedagogical contexts. Research in computer anxiety has identified that quality of initial experience may be important in the onset of anxiety towards IT. However the concept of computer anxiety is too vague to reflect likely reactions to specific IT scenarios especially in interactions with social technology such as wikis. Although wikis are growing in popularity little is known about users‟ emotional reaction towards contributing to them, how their experiences shape these emotions as well as the users‟ view of usability above that mentioned in qualitative research. Due to the interface, social and flexible nature of wikis users may be anxious towards editing. This research aims to offer causal insight into the influence of wiki site design characteristics on anxiety towards wiki editing and users usability evaluation of wiki editing experiences. Three experiment-based studies are presented addressing the effects of site characteristics such as in-built training spaces (i.e. tutorials and sandboxes commonly used on wikis), user editing identity as well as aspects inherent to wiki sites such as content flexibility, on anxiety felt by users in editing scenarios and users usability rating of their editing experiences. The research also aimed to identify whether initial experiences affected anxiety about further editing, as suggested by computer anxiety research, or whether emotions are only affected during editing experience. The findings of the initial study on in-built training spaces suggest that the concept of wiki anxiety measured in this research more accurately reflects anxiety experienced during interaction than computer anxiety. Additionally the in-built training spaces using tutorials were seen to lead to better first experiences for novice users in using the wiki markup interface than those without (such as when experiencing sandbox training spaces and no training). Similarly the presence of a tutorial reduced wiki anxiety during interaction but did not affect anxiety towards future editing. From these findings the work advanced to study the effect of identity salience on wiki anxiety during editing and wiki usability focusing on contributing content using a user group with experience editing wikis. This was so as to explore the effect of wiki characteristics on user experience variables above that from first exposure anxiety likely in novice users. The research found that participants were less anxious when editing the wiki anonymously than when editing using a pseudonym and full name identity. There was however no effect of identity salience on usability rating. Additionally the type of edit conducted by participants, in terms of addition or deletion and replacement of content, did not have a significant effect on either anxiety during editing or usability evaluation. Further research exploring the effect of flexibility and other user behaviour on user anxiety and usability evaluation when contributing subsequently found that there was no significant effect of flexibility on the wiki user experience variables. The work demonstrates successful empirical evaluation of the wiki user editing experience can be achieved and can lead to important causal insight into the effects of wiki site design on the users‟ experience. It also identifies aspects of the site that can lead to the reduction of anxiety towards editing during interaction and influence usability rating towards the system.