AXES update: Who are our users?

In our online surveys amongst potential users of the AXES prototypes, a total of 1633 people responded to questions regarding their usage of online search engines and audio-visual databases.

With these surveys, we found that in general, users below the age of 45 are more confident than older users. Moreover, we found that for researchers, academics and journalists alike, searching material online usually means “Googling it”.

Progress on user studies

In preparation for the development of AXES prototypes, several user studies have been undertaken to learn how potential users will use these prototypes. One approach we took for our studies is online surveys. Three surveys were taken in end of 2011 and summer of 2012 among the home users, academics and journalists, collecting a total of 1633 responses.


The first survey, held at the end of 2011, concerned the home users of AXES, the user group for the AXES HOME prototype. A total of 970 respondents were gathered.

The results of this survey were used to gather user requirements for the AXES-HOME prototype. The report with a description of these results and user requirements can be downloaded here: D1.2 User Requirements Report V1 (PDF). Moreover, a model was developed to classify respondents by 1) experience with using audio-visual databases and 2) how goal-directed they search these databases. This model has been described in a paper presented at WIAMIS 2012, titled “Who are the users of a video search system? Classifying a heterogeneous group with a Profile Matrix” available at IEEE Xplore.

With this user model, we found that users are quite experienced with the use of audio-visual databases; although YouTube is the only international database used, users from different countries also use national audio-visual databases (such as iPlayer and Uitzending Gemist). Many features and functionalities offered by audio-visual databases are seldom used. However, users who watched more video online generally used more functionality. Moreover, users below the age of 45 used more functionality than older users.

The presentation is available via SlideShare, the paper and the data used to create the model are available Open Access: see Paper and Data.


The other two surveys, held during the summer of 2012, concerned the research users of AXES, which will lead to the AXES RESEARCH prototype. Two independent surveys were used to gather respondents amongst academic users (342 responses), and journalistic users (321 responses), with a total of 663 respondents for the research users.

The results of these surveys were used to gather user requirements for the AXES-RESEARCH prototype. Moreover, these surveys were used to gain an insight in the influence of the Internet on the research process of academics and journalists. For the academics, the results were presented at the Digital Humanities Congress 2012, titled “Mapping the use of digital sources amongst Humanities scholars in the Netherlands”. The presentation is available via SlideShare, a paper is still in the works.

For the researchers, both academic and journalistic, it was found that searching material online usually means “Googling it”. The most common search engines used are the ones by Google; Search, Images and YouTube. This also leads to high expectations towards other search engines, expected to work similarly as Google. Moreover, we found that audio-visual material is seldom used for research purposes, largely due to difficult search facilities for audio-visual material. Our goal is to improve upon this search, so that audio-visual material can more easily be incorporated in the research process.

Sorting, prioritising, and comparing user needs

In early September, the team from the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision initiated research in cooperation with the University of Twente. This consists of a concept mapping experiment (see for example Nadeem, D., Stoyanov, S., & Koper, R. (2011)). Using Concept Mapping for Needs Analysis for a Social Support System in Learning Network. International Journal of Interactive Mobile Technologies (iJIM), 5(1). doi:10.3991/ijim.v5i1.1520) where participants are asked to sort and rate a list of statements (Some example statements are: Users should be able to search for videos that have a given mood (for example, dramatic, exciting, calm etc.); The system should provide a visual indication of the active filters while the user is searching; Users should be able to view and navigate through the videos that are returned as a search result) defining user needs. The statements stem from the requirements that all the project partners assembled in various stages of the project and list a number of functionalities of a possible search system.

The experiment allows us to explore differences and similarities between home users, researchers, and professionals with respect to the requirements that they have of audio-visual search systems. Research in other fields has learned us that this methodology has brought forth interesting insights into various groups’ user needs and we hope to find out more about how are future users approach the different characteristics of a possible new search engine that is based on advanced technologies.

Next phase

With the data from these surveys, user requirements are discussed within the AXES consortium to differentiate the three AXES prototypes (PRO, RESEARCH, HOME) to be best applicable to the relevant user group.

The first prototype, AXES-PRO, is due in December 2012. User evaluation of PRO will commence in January 2013.

If you are interested in taking part in user evaluations, please contact Max Kemman.

This blogpost was crossposted from the AXES-project website, see original here. This post was written in collaboration with project partners.
This blogpost was crossposted on the NISV R&D blog, see here.

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