Interface Design: The Impact of Images and Catalog Organization On the Information Retrieval of Children Ages Five to Eight While Subject Browsing

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



Library and Information Science


Purpose: This study investigated the design of three online public library catalogs in light of the cognitive ability and success of children ages five to eight.

Methodology/Approach: A quasi-experimental approach was employed to examine the influence of system design on children’s searching strategies and search success. Interviews were used to explore children’s rationale for using icons and taxonomies in the catalogs. Fifty one children from one public library participated in this study. Inferential statistics were utilized to whether significant differences existed between use of the catalogs and the children’s success in finding information.

Results: Use of images and text were helpful in searching the catalogs. Results of the ANOVA test indicated no significant difference among children’s searching success rates and the three catalogs. Additionally, the participants misidentified representations used in icons in all three catalogs and created valid search paths that did not produce results. There was a disconnect between the children’s cognitive abilities and the design representations of the three catalogs.

Limitations: The study took place in one location, thus one should not overgeneralize the findings. Use of assigned tasks may have affected children’s success rates. Children’s searching using printed cards of display screens from the three catalogs instead of real-time interaction with them is also a limitation.

Practical Implications: Because of the children’s reliance on images, the choice of visual representations is crucial to successful searching. Interface designers should involve young users in the design of today’s online catalogs. They should also consider new forms of representations such as auditory icons, verbal mouse overs, and zooms.

Originality/Value: In addition to addressing the need for research on young children’s information seeking and use of online catalogs in public libraries, this research focuses on the need for an additional layer of visual representation and highlights flaws in currently used catalog designs.

Publication Title

Library and Information Science

First Page


Last Page