Learning From User Behavior


David Nicholas

In all online systems, user behavior is important because it guides the development and promotion of the system.  David Nicholas,  Director of Information Studies at University College, London, reported on a study of the impact of the Europeana system to determine whether it is meeting its objectives.  Europeana is a multilingual online collection of millions of digitized objects from about 1,500 European museums, libraries, and archives.  The launch of Europeana was seen as an excellent opportunity to study the impact of a large and ambitious public digital rollout of an online system.

The system was developed in France and was considered by some as the French answer to Google; however, one of the first results of the study was that most use of the system (over 90%) was by robots, most frequently by Google.  Those who study system usage must be aware of this effect; otherwise, their data will be distorted.  After excluding the robotic use, Europeana was visited by about 1 million users who made 9-10 million page views during the first 12 months after it was launched.  Usage was volatile and diverse; here are some results of the study, which are very interesting and revealing:

  • Hourly use peaked initially at 11 AM, then reached a daily high in the evening, suggesting a high volume of home and public use.
  • The daily peaks for different countries can vary widely; for example, Finland peaked at 10-11 AM and Portugal at 6-7 PM.
  • Weekly use peaked on Tuesday.  Sunday usage was similar to a working day suggesting a consumer/leisure profile of users.
  • December and March are the busiest months.  Summer usage is significantly lower.  The UK showed little monthly usage variation; France and Germany followed the overall pattern.
  • Overall growth was modest, equivalent to a 0.9% compound annual growth rate.  Germany and France account for about 40% of use.

One of the questions to be investigated is whether users tend to primarily access their own nation’s collections or whether they range across the entire collection (a desired goal).  88% of the material used was French.

Google was the major referrer of traffic to Europeana, accounting for half of the referrals.

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today and Conference Circuit Blog Editor

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