Student researcher

Youngjoon Choi (Ph.D. student)
Michael Marcinkowski (Ph.D. student)
Bo Zhang (Ph.D. student)

This paper was based on a project as part of the Comm 506 course

Faculty Supervisor

Dr. S. Shyam Sundar


In recent years, as both computing power and the ability to share media over the Internet have increased, there has been a booming interest in new modes of media consumption and interaction. In particular, there has been a rise in interest in the possibilities of 3D environments. While such 3D environments have been utilized in many areas, they have shown particular promises in being used to create virtual museum experiences which offer people from around the world convenient access to museums and artworks that might otherwise be unavailable to them.

One major concern for such interfaces is their level of navigability, referring to the degrees of freedom of movement an interface offers to users as they interact with content. Using the theoretical concepts of flow-like experience and immersion, this paper examines the effects of differences in degrees of navigability on user enjoyment and their intention toward future use of the system.


RQ: For Internet users, controlling for age, gender, Internet use, previous experience with the interface, and general art interest, what is the relationship between the level of navigability and the level of user enjoyment and behavioral intention?

RQa: What is the relationship between the level of navigability and the level of flow-like experiences (skill-challenge match and immersion)?

RQb: What is the relationship between the level of flow-like experiences (skill-challenge match and immersion) and the level of enjoyment and behavioral intention?


In order to examine the role that navigability plays in users' experience of online virtual art exhibitions, an experimental lab study was conducted using students from a major American university as participants. There were two conditions in the experiment: a high navigability environment and a low navigability environment.

Using a modified version of the Google Art Project (, participants were randomly assigned to use either a highly navigable 3D environment to browse a collection of paintings from the Museum of Modern Art, or they were offered a simpler, less navigable 2D interface which allowed them to simply flip through the images. Each participant was given a few simple tasks to complete using the interface. Following their use of the system, participants filled out a questionnaire about their experience of the system. This questionnaire was designed to measure their experience of both a skill-challenge match and their sense of immersion, both of which are seen as contributing to a flow-like experience. Additionally, the questionnaire captured their evaluation of the user experience.


Overall, we found that participants in both the high navigability and low navigability conditions reported enjoying their use of the online art exhibition. Somewhat surprisingly, those participants assigned to the low navigability condition reported higher levels of enjoyment than those in the high navigability condition. The effect of the level of navigability on the degree of enjoyment was found to be mediated by the degree of immersion in the online exhibition. In this, those in the low navigability condition reported higher levels of immersion, as well as higher levels of enjoyment. Further, higher levels of reported enjoyment were positively correlated with higher levels of reported behavioral intention toward future use and recommendation.

While a connection between a high level of navigability and a high degree of a sense of skill-challenge match was found to be significant, there was no significant correlation between the level of reported skill-challenge match and the degree of enjoyment. As such, it appears that in the case of an interactive online experience, the effects of navigability on a user's sense of enjoyment is mediated by a sense of immersion, but not by the larger construct of a flow-like experience such as would be constituted in part by a feeling of a skill-challenge match.


Finding that interfaces with higher navigability poses interesting challenges to software designers and others who may have a stake in developing applications that utilize highly navigable 3D environments. While conventional wisdom would have it that highly navigable 3D environments would result in higher levels of immersion and enjoyment, our findings contradict such notions and point to the challenges that navigable environments pose. In particular, in addition to open up further paths for research, this study reinforces the notion that the type of interface used must be determined by the task for which it is intended.

For more details regarding the study contact

Dr. S. Shyam Sundar by e-mail at or by telephone at (814) 865-2173

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Media Effects Research Lab at College of Communications, Penn State University