Ph.D. thesis, cover

Ph.D. Thesis - Forward, Back and Home Again
Analyzing User Behavior on the Web

(the thesis is available for download at the end of this page)

At first sight, browsing the World Wide Web is a fairly intuitive and simple activity, but it turns out that users often experience difficulties in finding the information and services that they are looking for - or in returning to items that they have visited before.

In order to improve the current design of Web sites and Web browsers, or to provide users with personalized interfaces, one needs to know how users interact with the Web. Although theoretical models and empirical data exist, the knowledge that they provide is limited and scattered.

The aim of this thesis is to integrate current insights and to extend this body of knowledge with a number of user studies. Several methods are presented for obtaining, clearing, analyzing and visualizing Web usage data.

Various aspects of user navigation styles are discussed. Particular attention is given to the issue why, when and how often users return to Web pages, and how browsers can support this more effectively. An important observation is that the Web has evolved from a hypermedia system to a hybrid between hypermedia and interactive applications.

This thesis has been successfully defended on April 13, 2006 at the University of Twente, the Netherlands.

Press Coverage

Forward, Back and Home Again has gained quite some attention in the press upon publication.

On May 13, 2006, the Dutch newspaper "de Leeuwarder Courant" published an interview with the caption "The Dynamic Web Requires Smarter Browsers" (pdf, 292KB, in Dutch).

The Dutch IT magazine "Automatisering Gids" of April 21 summarized my thesis in the article "Internet Browsers Not Easy to Use" (pdf, 129KB, in Dutch).

On October 21, 2006, WebSiteOptimization.com showed results from my thesis and our award-winning WWW2006 paper in the article "Clickstream Study Reveals Dynamic Web" (external link).

Publication of My Thesis

Since September, 2007, my thesis is being sold at major online bookstores, published by VDM Verlag with the title "An Analysis of User Behavior on the Web. The book is for sale at, amongst others:

Download the Thesis (or parts of it)

Read the short abstract
Download the long abstract (pdf, 45KB)
Lees de Nederlandse samenvatting (pdf, 45KB)
Read the propositions

Download the thesis (pdf, 2.5MB)

Eelco Herder