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Web site usability and the theory of multiple intelligences

, University of Virginia, United States

University of Virginia . Awarded


This study investigated Web site usability issues with 12 children, ages 3–6, within the framework of Howard Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences. This study explored (a) what specific usability issues children encounter when using Web sites, (b) what design elements are most or least effective, (c) what role intelligence type plays in usability and (d) what other factors affect Web usability. This qualitative field study employed a contextual inquiry approach used in usability research. The design was balanced for age and gender. Children used Playhouse Disney and Sesame Street, two popular Web sites for preschool-aged children. Data were collected via the Teele Inventory for Multiple Intelligences (TIMI), interviews, observations, questionnaires and click-stream logs over three research sessions.

The highest intelligence types for children in the study were kinesthetic (M = 4.67, SD = 0.78), spatial (M = 4.67, SD = 1.61) and intrapersonal (M = 4.50, SD = 1.38). The medium intelligence types were musical (M = 3.92, SD = 1.38), interpersonal (M = 3.83, SD = 1.75) and logical (M = 3.42, SD = 1.98). The lowest was linguistic (M = 3.0, SD = 1.28). Children with high logical intelligence had the greatest success, while children with high linguistic intelligence had the greatest satisfaction.

Children were categorized as “adventurous” or “ambivalent” based on their interest in the Web sites. Analysis of their comments and usage patterns revealed which aspects of Web design they liked and disliked and what caused usability problems. The biggest navigation obstacles were inability to read, poor mouse control and problems with the interface design. Children did not use search, map, index or help tools if they were available. Children did not scroll or use the back or forward arrows in the Web browser. Age, gender, previous Internet experience, siblings, computer configurations and poor ergonomics affected usability.

Examples of design features (and their engaged intelligence) that positively affected usability were: sound effects (musical), characters that interacted with the children (interpersonal), audio instructions (linguistic), large clickable areas (kinesthetic), limited choices (logical), positive reinforcement (intrapersonal) and navigation metaphors (spatial). Results suggest that simpler navigation schemes, interface designs that engage spatial rather than linguistic intelligence, and features that positively engage a variety of intelligence types will make Web sites easier for children to use.


Ashmore, L.H. Web site usability and the theory of multiple intelligences. Ph.D. thesis, University of Virginia. Retrieved February 17, 2019 from .

This record was imported from ProQuest on October 23, 2013. [Original Record]

Citation reproduced with permission of ProQuest LLC.

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