Problem Statement

The application of the visualization techniques to Web search really broadens the horizon and the impacts of information exploration on the World Wide Web (WWW) environment. Although most of these visualization environments are successful in using state of the art graphic techniques for demonstrating the connection among the query and resulting Web pages, they pay little attention to developing an effective mechanism to guide users in finding the needed data among many Web search results. A word can have multiple meanings depending on different contexts. The order of keywords used in a query also affects the final outcomes of a search. For example, the queries "information system" and "system information" result in different outcomes. More importantly, context information on the current topic of interest is crucial and can be used to guide users to their desired information and help them in the decision about which links they should further explore. For example, with a query like "information visualization", the output could contain several groups of results corresponding to different aspects of information visualization.

Assume that a user at one moment is interested in visualization techniques for software evolution, he/she could not find the desired Web page because it is not listed in the first few dozen results. He/she has to modify the query to include additional keywords (e.g. "software" and "evolution"), hoping to get the desired page. If he/she still could not locate the desired page, additional keywords must be introduced as the context information in order to narrow the set of resulting pages. That is, with the existing Web search framework, users' topics of interest or contextual information can only be introduced as a different query.

WebSearchViz is an interactive visualization system for visualizing the Web search results and to facilitate users' navigation and exploration. The metaphor in our model is the solar system with its planets and asteroids revolving around the sun. Location, color, movement, and spatial distance of objects in the visual space are used to represent the semantic relationships between a query and relevant Web pages. Especially, the movement of objects and their speeds add a new dimension to the visual space, illustrating the degree of relevance among a query and Web search results in the context of users' subjects of interest. By interacting with the visual space, users are able to observe the semantic relevance between a query and a resulting Web page with respect to their subjects of interest, context information, or concern. Users' subjects of interest can be dynamically changed, redefined, added, or deleted from the visual space.