HCIL-99-06

Understanding Patterns of User Visits to Web Sites: Interactive Starfield Visualization of WWW Log Data - Short Version
Hochheiser, H., Shneiderman, B.
March 1999
See 99-30 (November 1999).
HCIL-99-06, CS-TR-3989, UMIACS-TR-99-11, ISR-TR-99-3
HTTP server log files provide Web site operators with substantial detail regarding the visitors to their sites. Interest in interpreting this data has spawned an active market for software packages that summarize and analyze this data, providing histograms, pie graphs, and other charts summarizing usage patterns. While useful, these summaries obscure useful information and restrict users to passive interpretation of static displays.

Interactive starfield visualizations can be used to provide users with greater abilities to interpret and explore web log data. By combining two-dimensional displays of thousands of individual access requests, color and size coding for additional attributes, and facilities for zooming and filtering, these visualizations provide capabilities for examining data that exceed those of traditional web log analysis tools. We introduce a series of interactive starfield visualizations, which can be used to explore server data across various dimensions. Possible uses of these visualizations are discussed, and difficulties of data collection, presentation, and interpretation are explored.

Keywords: World-Wide Web, Log File Analysis, Information Visualization

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