Visual query interfaces for semantic datasets: An evaluation study

Guillermo Vega-Gorgojo, Laura Slaughter, Martin Giese, Simen Heggestoyl, Ahmet Soylu, Arild Waaler


The rapid growth of the Linked Open Data cloud, as well as the increasing ability to lift relational enterprise datasets to a semantic, ontology-based level means that vast amounts of information are now available in a representation that closely matches the conceptualizations of the potential users of this information. This makes it interesting to create ontology based, user-oriented tools for searching and exploring this data. Although initial efforts were intended for tech users with knowledge of SPARQL/RDF, there are ongoing proposals designed for lay users. One of the most promising approaches is to use visual query interfaces, but more user studies are needed to assess their effectiveness. In this paper, we compare the effect on usability of two important paradigms for ontology-based query interfaces: form-based and graph-based interfaces. In order to reduce the number of variables affecting the comparison, we performed a user study with two state-of-the-art query tools developed by ourselves, sharing a large part of the code base: the graph-based tool OptiqueVQS*, and the form-based tool PepeSearch. We evaluated these tools in a formal comparison study with 15 participants searching a Linked Open Data version of the Norwegian Company Registry. Participants had to respond to 6 non-trivial search tasks using alternately OptiqueVQS* and PepeSearch. Even without previous training, retrieval performance and user confidence were very high, thus suggesting that both interface designs are effective for searching RDF datasets. Expert searchers had a clear preference for the graph-based interface, and mainstream searchers obtained better performance and confidence with the form-based interface. While a number of participants spontaneously praised the capability of the graph interface for composing complex queries, our results evidence that graph interfaces are difficult to grasp. In contrast, form interfaces are more learnable and relieve problems with disorientation for mainstream users. We have also observed positive results introducing faceted search and dynamic term suggestion in semantic search interfaces.

Full Text: Untitled
Type of Paper: Research Paper
Keywords: Semantic search; Visual query interfaces; User studies; Usability
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