Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Weekly Technical Meeting - 22nd September 2011

The eRaUI team met again on Thursday 22nd September for our weekly technical meeting. During the course of this meeting, we saw a demonstration of some of the current developments within eRaUI so far. This included a brief tour of the data collection, recording, playback and heatmap tools so far created. These tools already have significant useful functionality, despite being in an early alpha stage of development. Currently, the analytical component of eRaUI is able to:

1) Record a user's interaction with a web-application, including all clicks, mouse movements, key events and scroll events.

2) Identify recurring visitors across domains and determine essential analytics regarding their platform, browser and OS.

3) Play back their interaction with a web application; using a jQuery based 'replay' system.

4) Generate a heatmap indicating mouse clicks within the application - thus highlighting the areas within an application which are often visited / clicked.

We also discussed the following points:

User Identities within eRaUI - one of the difficulties with the current eRaUI proposal is the need to track individual users who may visit a website on multiple occasions. The currently proposed mechanism of cookie-based tracking makes it difficult to reliably keep track of the precise identity of users. However, it is possible, using cookies, to identify patterns of usage particular to recurring visitors in a way which is imprecise yet still meaningful. In order to address this difficulty, it is proposed that we consider a login system whereby users of eRaUI-enabled interfaces can uniquely identify themselves.

We discussed ways in which it might be possible to categorise users into levels (i.e. expert, novice etc) using ontologies. This method (essentially a dictionary of keywords corresponding to levels of use) would need to be specific to a particular field of website or web-application (i.e. research), which somewhat limits the generic applicability of eRaUI. It has been discussed that there may be more non-application-specific mechanisms by which to determine user type.

Another mechanism by which it may be possible to categorise user ability level is by monitoring users' behavioural pathways as they seek particular content items within the website. For instance, a novice user may take a long time to locate a particular tool within the NaCTeM website compared to an experienced user. By comparing the times taken to reach the same item, we can make inferences as to their experience level and categorise them accordingly. A short path to a particular item would mean an experienced user.

It has been suggested that the newly-created heatmap analytics system be made so that links within heatmaps can be followed to generate heatmaps of the pages which they link to. This will always be possible provided that data is available within these pages to generate a heatmap.

The analytics (heatmap and recording) systems are currently somewhat separate in terms of proposed functionality to the widget aspect of eRaUI. For this reason, it has been proposed that eRaUI might be implementable in an 'analytics only' form for users who may wish to benefit from the analytical data without placing a widget on their web-application.

It has also been proposed that we ensure that code is adequately commented so as to make our deliverables as redistributable and configurable as possible for end-users.

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