The design of wayfinding affordance and its influence on task performance and perceptual experience in desktop virtual environments
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For the past few years, virtual environments (VEs) have gained broad attention from both scholarly and practitioner communities. However, in spite of intense and widespread efforts, most VE-related research has focused on the technical aspects of applications, and the necessary theoretical framework to assess the quality of interfaces and designs has not yet been fully developed. This research, as a response to such challenges, concerns the usability of three-dimensional VEs. More specifically, this study aims to investigate the effects of wayfinding affordance design on users’ task performance and perceptual experience in 3D desktop VEs. For this purpose, four different wayfinding affordance conditions were set up: Fixed Detached Affordance Cues (FDAC) condition, Switchable Detached Affordance Cues (SDAC) condition, Portable Embedded Affordance Cues (PEAC) condition and Fixed Embedded Affordance Cues (FEAC) condition. Maps and directional cues were employed to implement wayfinding affordance. The results show that the design of wayfinding affordance has significant effects on users’ perceptual experience as well as their task performance. Task performance was significantly better where the maps and directional cues were provided independently from the VE interfaces (FDAC, SDAC). With regard to perceptual experience, the effect was significant only in simple environments. In these environments, the fixed and, therefore, stable interfaces (FEAC, FDAC) were found to provide a better sense of presence for users whereas the manipulative interfaces (PEAC, SDAC) offered a greater state of playfulness. The research findings also indicated that the design of 3D interfaces had a greater impact on non-expert users than on expert users.