How the structure of Wikipedia articles influences user navigation

TitleHow the structure of Wikipedia articles influences user navigation
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsD. Lamprecht, K. Lerman, D. Helic, and M. Strohmaier
JournalNew Review of Hypermedia and Multimedia
Date Publishedmay

In this work we study how people navigate the information network of Wikipedia and investigate (i) free-form navigation by studying all clicks within the English Wikipedia over an entire month and (ii) goal-directed Wikipedia navigation by analyzing wikigames, where users are challenged to retrieve articles by following links. To study how the organization of Wikipedia articles in terms of layout and links affects navigation behavior, we first investigate the characteristics of the structural organization and of hyperlinks in Wikipedia and then evaluate link selection models based on article structure and other potential influences in navigation, such as the generality of an article's topic. In free-form Wikipedia navigation, covering all Wikipedia usage scenarios, we find that click choices can be best modeled by a bias towards article structure, such as a tendency to click links located in the lead section. For the goal-directed navigation of wikigames, our findings confirm the zoom-out and the homing-in phases identified by previous work, where users are guided by generality at first and textual similarity to the target later. However, our interpretation of the link selection models accentuates that article structure is the best explanation for the navigation paths in all except these initial and final stages. Overall, we find evidence that users more frequently click on links that are located close to the top of an article. The structure of Wikipedia articles, which places links to more general concepts near the top, supports navigation by allowing users to quickly find the better-connected articles that facilitate navigation. Our results highlight the importance of article structure and link position in Wikipedia navigation and suggest that better organization of information can help make information networks more navigable.