Considering the rapid growth of the Internet, and the vast amount of information that is available, the designers of websites must employ various techniques to attract visitors and retain their interest over time. The most widely used approach is the incorporation of multimedia and interactive components into a website. Not only are such components effective as unique tools of attraction, they are also alleged to offer considerable educational benefits over traditional media. Studies of usability however, suggest that the technological hindrances of such components far outweigh any educational benefits.
This investigation was carried out to determine the effect of multimedia and interactivity upon a typical user experience. Using a realistic procedure, participants carried out an unstructured explorative evaluation of various versions of the BBC News website, varying in the degree of multimedia and interactivity. This was followed by a multi-point questionnaire based around a number of evaluative factors, measuring attitudes towards the website; towards the content; and towards the user experience.
The only effect to reach significance was that of multimedia upon the attitude towards the user experience. A second task required participants to recall as many facts as possible from an allocated news article. Neither multimedia nor interactivity however, had any significant impact upon either the correct or incorrect recall scores. In light of these results, the questionable educational roles of multimedia and interactivity were discussed, as well as their underestimated effect upon the user experience. Implications for website design were considered and future research was suggested.