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Annotating the Web: An Exploratory Study of Web Users’ Needs for Personal Annotation Tools

Xin Fu, Tom Ciszek, Gary Marchionini, Paul Solomon

Sparking Synergies: Bringing Research and Practice Together @ ASIST '05 (ASIS&T 2005)
Westin Charlotte, Charlotte, North Carolina, October 28 - November 2, 2005


This exploratory study investigates the needs Web users have to make annotations for their personal use when they view Web pages. Three forms of annotations observed on printed documents – text selection and emphasis, association building, and document re-segmentation – are examined in the Web environment. The study shows that text selection and association building through notes or symbols remain the dominant forms of annotation on the Web, while structural annotation (re-segmentation) and layout annotation (change of font, color, etc.) are also prevalent. The study also investigates users’ preferences for the tools designed to facilitate Web annotation practices. Findings suggest that usability is of utmost importance when developing Web annotation tools, and that under the current technical conditions, users welcome lightweight annotation functions, which are built into standard Web browsers.

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