Use Bulleted List
- Chat groups have been used at least once by more than half of our respondents (60%). Although they are not frequently visited by most respondents, there are some respondents who use them quite frequently (9% daily, 12% weekly, 10% monthly). Respondents from Europe are less likely to have used them than respondents from the US. There are small differences between the percentage of males and females who use chat rooms frequently (11% of women use daily compared to 8% of men) but for occasional use there are no gender differences. Younger uses are more likely to have used chat rooms at all levels of frequency, particularly those aged 10-18. More than half of the expert respondents have never used chat rooms while 15% of novices use them daily.
- The percentage of respondents accessing news on a daily basis has dropped slightly from the Seventh survey (22% Eighth, 24% Seventh) while the number accessing it on a weekly basis has risen by about the same amount (24% Eighth, 21% Seventh). Europeans more frequently access electronic news than US respondents. In other news media, studies have shown that the younger generation tends to view news information less frequently than the older generation and than seems to hold true on the web as well. Those over age 50 who read electronic news daily is 29% compared to 22% of those ages 26-50, 18% of those age 19-25, and 11% of those age 10-18.
Favorites/Bookmarks Usage Patterns
- The activities that users perform with their bookmarks or favorites list have not changed much since the last survey. Most respondents create entries (86%), delete entries (74%) and rearrange entries (63%). The percentage of users who create folders rose from 62% in the Seventh survey to 70% in the Eighth. The percentage who create subfolders (considered a more advanced technique) dropped slightly to 41% from 46% in the Seventh survey. The vast majority of respondents use bookmarks in some way -- only 4% said they didn't use them at all. European respondents and males are more likely to perform all of the activities listed in the question. Expert users are more likely to perform all of the activities as well, particularly creating subfolders (67% of experts compared to 13% of novices). David Abrams of the University of Toronto originally developed this question, which was first included into the Sixth Survey.
- The percentage of respondents who have never accessed financial information on the web continues to drop slowly (30% Eighth, 31% Seventh, 34% Sixth). A quarter of users have access it a few times (26%) while 15% of users access it daily. A higher percentage of women than men have never accessed financial information (37% female, 26% male). Younger users are less likely to have ever accessed financial information (58% of 10-18 said "Never"), while older users are more likely to access it very frequently (22% of 50+ said "Daily"). Experienced user are also more likely to access it daily (22).
Frequency of Use
- The frequency with which respondents use the web is on par with the previous survey with 85% using it daily (85% Seventh, 82% Sixth). The largest category of respondents use the web 1-4 times per day (45% Eighth, 42% Seventh, 46% Sixth) with 41% using it more frequently (42% Seventh) and 15% less frequently (15% Seventh). As with the previous survey, females use it slightly less frequently than males. Those aged 19-50 use it more frequently than other age groups. Expert users are much more likely to use the web daily (94%) than novice users (78%).
Hours of Fun Computing
- As with personal computing, the largest category of respondents uses their computer for fun between 1 and 5 hours per week (34%). The youngest users (10-18) tend to spend more time on fun computing than the other age groups. The oldest users (50+) have the largest group that spend less than an hour per week on fun computing (27%), but they also spend the most time on personal computing. (See: Hours of Personal Computing.) Novices spend more time on fun computing and personal computing than experts, who spend more time on work computing.
Hours of Web Use
- The number of hours people use the web per week has increased slightly since the last survey: 24% use the web for more than 20 hours a week compared to 21% in the Seventh survey. In addition, 32% use it for 10-20 hours per week up from 29% last time. Nearly the same percentage of females as males use the web for more than 20 hours per week, but for those using it less than 20 hours per week, females tend to spend fewer hours than males. The youngest users (10-18) tend to spend less time on the web; experts tend to spent more. When our results are compared to other nationally representative surveys, we find that our respondents report more hours on the web than those in other surveys. This makes sense given that most people find our survey as a result of being on the web, but it means that these numbers probably represent maximum values for the populations being described. In other words, please interpret these results conservatively.
How Users Find out About WWW Pages
- For this question, respondents could choose more than one answer. Most users find new web pages through other web pages (88%) and through search engines (82%). For the past year (Sixth & Seventh surveys) search engines have outranked other web pages as the source of new pages, that trend has reversed again. Internet directories such as Yahoo, a new choice for this survey, are used by 65% of respondents. Some other categories are virtually identical to the percentage from the Seventh survey: print media (62%), friends (58%), and email signatures (33%). The percentage who find web pages through TV advertising has risen since the last survey (37% Eighth, 30% Seventh) and the percentage using Usenet news continues to drop slightly (30% Eighth, 33% Seventh). Males are still more likely than females to find new web pages with Usenet News (34% males, 23% females). Younger users are more likely to get URLs from friends, while older users are more likely to use print media, books and TV. Novices are more likely to find web pages through TV advertising, while experts use most other routes, especially Usenet News.
- As with previous surveys, most users automatically download images most of the time. 90% said that they have image loading turned off less than 25% of the time (86% Seventh, 86% Sixth) which probably explains why downloading speed is an issue for most users (See: Problems Using the Web). Users in Europe and experts are slightly more likely to view the web with image loading turned off.
- For this question respondents could chose more than one answer. The majority of respondents say that to them, email (84%) and the web (82%) have become indispensable technologies. No other technologies listed in the question come close to these, but the next most popular are chat (22%), Java (22%) and audio (17%). The same percentage of females and males see email, the web, and chat as indispensable, but females are less enthusiastic than males about Java and audio. The youngest users (10-18) are more inclined to see most technologies as indispensable, particularly chat (41% 10-18 vs. 14% 50+). The oldest users (50+), however, are more inclined to see the web as indispensable (88% 50+ vs. 78% 10-18). Fewer experts see email and the web as indispensable, but more see Java and digital signatures as indispensable.
Instead of Watching TV
- Only 12% of respondents report never using the web instead of watching TV. Large numbers of respondens, though, report doing this on a weekly or even daily basis. 29% use the web more than once a day instead of watching TV.
- WebTV respondents differed from other respondents for this question. For a discussion of these differences, see WebTV Respondents.
- Looking a job listings on the web is not a very frequent activity for most respondents: 40% have never done it and 34% have only done it a few times. This is not terribly surprising as most people are not frequently looking for new jobs. Those in the 19-50 age range are most likely to look for job listings on the web. Most experts have looked for a job on the web at least once (73%) and have a larger percentage that do so on a monthly basis than less experienced users.
- There are several map servers available on the web which most respondents have used at least once (83%). Of those who have used them, about half have used them just a few times (47%). Older users are more likely to have use them than younger users while experts are more likely to use them frequently.
- The largest category of users have accessed medical information online a few times (39%). 36% access it at least once a month. Many more US respondents have accessed medical information on the web (80%) than European respondents (53%). Women access medical information more than men and older users access it more than younger users. Novices are more likely to access it than experienced users.
- For this question, respondents could choose more than one answer. Yahoo is frequently visited by 84% of our respondents. However, since the survey is advertised on the Yahoo site (among others), this number may be artificially high. On the other hand, other sources have established Yahoo as one of the most visited sites on the web so it is not surprising that a high percentage have visited it in the past six months. Next most popular are the major search engines: AltaVista (67%), Excite (66%), Infoseek (60%) and Lycos (59%). European respondents favor AltaVista over the other search engines more strongly than their US counterparts. Older users are more likely to use specialized email/address search services such as 411, Bigfoot, and WhoWhere than younger users. All three levels of experience report using Yahoo more than any other navigation service, but novices are most likely to use Yahoo and Excite, intermediates use Infoseek, Lycos and AltaVista, while experts mainly use AltaVista.
- As in the Seventh survey, about 38% of users access Usenet News at least weekly. At the other end of the scale, 47% have never accessed it or have only accessed it a few times. Females tend to access newsgroups less frequently than males. Those over age 50 tend to access them more frequently than any other age group with more than a quarter (26%) accessing them daily. Contrary to what we would expect, novices are most likely to be accessing newsgroups daily.
Number of Items in Favorites/Bookmark
- The number of items people have in their bookmark/favorites lists are nearly the same as the last survey. There was a slight increase in the percentage with 11-50 in their lists (38% Eighth, 36% Seventh) and a slight decrease in the percentage with only 1-10 in the list (14% Eighth, 15% Seventh). European respondents are more likely to have over 100 items in the list (30% Europe, 21% US). Those in the 26-50 age range and experts have the most bookmarks.
Hours of Personal Computing
- The largest category of respondents use their computer for personal reasons between 1 and 5 hours per week, (37%). The next largest category use it 5-10 hours per week (25%). Users over age 50 spend more hours per week on personal computing than other age groups with 32% spending over 10 hours per week compared to 26% of those age 26-50 and 25% of those age 19-25. Experienced users spend less time on personal computing than novice or intermediate users.
Primary Uses of the Web
- The choices for this question were revised from the last survey, so the results are not directly comparable in most cases. Generic activities like "searching" and "information gathering" were replaced with more specific activities. Respondents could choose more than one answer to this question.
- Gathering information for personal needs in the most common activity for respondents (72%) followed by entertainment (65%) and education (60%). In this survey, 40% report using the web for shopping compared to only 19% in the Seventh survey. This is explained by the choice "shopping" being rephrased as "shopping/gathering product information" giving it a broader definition. 40% of respondents admit to using the web simply to waste time. Respondents from Europe are more likely to use the web for work (79%) than their US counterparts (55%). The youngest users (10-18) use the web mainly for entertainment (85%), education (73%) and tame wasting (69%); those aged 19-25 have the same top 3 uses with slightly smaller percentages. Those in the 26-50 age range are more likely to use the web for work (62%) and shopping (43%) than other age groups while seniors (50+) are most likely be gathering information for personal needs (76%). Novices use the web for entertainment and communication more than others while experts are more likely to be shopping than others.
Problems Using Favorites/Bookmarks
- The percentage of respondents who report having no problems using bookmarks/favorites continues to rise with 58% reporting no problems in this survey (49% Seventh, 46% Sixth). This suggests several possibilities: that bookmark/favorites functionality is getting easier to use, users are becoming more skilled, or expectations are lower. Interestingly, the group reporting having the least problems with bookmarks are users over 50 (68%) and novice users (67%)--both groups which use the basic features of bookmarks, but generally not the advanced features (See: Favorites/Bookmarks Usage Patterns). This suggests that basic functionality is getting easier to use, but more advanced features are still causing problems even for experts. The main problems cited are: not being able to tell when the content of a page changes(21%), not being able to organize bookmarks (15%) and not being able to store them quickly in the proper place (15%). These are the same top reasons cited in the Seventh survey. David Abrams of the University of Toronto originally developed this question, which was first included into the Sixth Survey.
Problems Using the Web
- While speed is still the number one problem for web users, the percentage of users who report this problem continues to drop slightly from 76% in the Sixth survey a year ago to 66% in the Seventh and 63% in the current survey. We suspect this is because of the continuing rise in average connection speed. The problem of broken links is growing, however, being cited by 50% in the last survey compared to 60% in the current survey. Finding information along with organizing what is found continue to be problems for many users. Cost, feeling lost, and the inability to visualize web sites don't seem to be an issue for most users. Slightly fewer females than males cite speed as a problem, but more females complain about broken links. Younger users in general cite more problems using the web than older users, but those over age 50 are slightly more inclined to feel lost in hyperspace. Expert users complain more about speed (71%) and organizing information (31%) while novices have more trouble finding information they know is out there (38%) and revisiting web sites (22%). Novices are also more likely to feel lost in hyperspace (12%) and to be interested in visualization (13%).
- Product information is another very popular type of information accessed on the web, although few respondents access it daily (13%). One-third access it weekly (33%) and one-quarter (25%) access it monthly. Only 6% have never accessed product information on the web which is a slight decrease from the Seventh survey (8%). Females tend to access it less frequently while experts tend to access it more frequently.
- The majority of respondents have never looked for real estate information on the web (64%). Those who have, have only done so a few times (26%). Respondents in the 19-50 age range are more likely to have looked for real estate information which is not surprising since they tend to be more experienced with the web and are in a common age range for buying houses.
Reasons For Saving and Printing Documents
- For this question, respondents could choose more than one answer. As with the past two surveys, the main reason people print and save documents is to use them offline (54%) but the percentage has decreased notably from 62% in the Seventh. Researchers have documented that it is difficult to read large amounts of text on a monitor due to poor resolution, so it's no surprise that many users print documents just to read them (43%). 40% save or print documents to distribute them to others who aren't online. Just over a quarter (26%) save and print documents for fear that they will disappear. This percentage has been consistent for the past year, suggesting that respondents haven't perceived any increase in web stability. Intermediate users and experts are more likely to save a n print documents (for all reasons) than novices.
- Although the percentage of users who access reference material on a daily basis has declined slightly since the last survey (28% Eighth, 31% Seventh), it continues to be one of the most popular kinds of information accessed on the web. 40% access it on a weekly basis and another 20% access it monthly. Users from Europe access reference material more frequently than US users. The youngest users access it less frequently than older users. Experts are more likely to access it daily (37%) than novices (22%).
- Respondents access research materials on the web quite frequently with 39% accessing them at least weekly. This is down slightly from the Seventh survey (42%) but is on par with the Sixth (39%). European respondents access research material even more often than US respondents. Although more younger users have accessed research material at least once, older users who have accessed it tend to access it more frequently than younger users. Experts access research material more frequently than novices.
- For this question, shopping refers to actually making purchases over the Web; another question in this category covers looking for product information (See: Product Information). The largest category of respondents said that they have shopped online a few times in the past year (38%) -- the same percentage as in the last survey. Still, a third have never shopped on the web which is a decrease of 6 percentage points from the Seventh survey (39%). In general, the amount of people shopping on the web continues to slowly increase, although most still do it infrequently. For occasional shoppers (less than once a week), a higher percentage are male. However, for very frequent shoppers males and females shop with equal frequency. The youngest users and novices are the least likely to have shopped online (57% Never for 10-18, 45% Never for novices).
- The largest category of respondents have accessed telephone listings online a few times (40%), but a quarter have never accessed them (26%). 22% access them on a monthly basis with 9% accessing telephone listings weekly. Respondents from Europe are less likely to have accessed them at all (49% Never). As was suggested by the question dealing with Navigation Services, users over age 50+ access telephone and directory information more frequently than other age groups: 23% access monthly and 10% access weekly. Those in the intermediate experience category are least likely to access telephone listings frequently, although most have done so a few times (42%).
Hours of Work Computing
- Just under a quarter of our respondents use their computer for under 1 hour per week for work (22%). Most respondents, however, spend quite a number of hours per week using their computer for work with 36% over 20 hours/wk. Respondents from Europe especially put in alot of hours on the computer with 60% having over 20 hours/wk. As we would expect, experts and those in the 19-50 age groups use the computer for work more hours than other groups.
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GVU's WWW Surveying Team
Graphics, Visualization, & Usability Center
College of Computing
Georgia Institute of Technology
Atlanta, GA 30332-0280