iSchool Faculty Publishes New Book on User Engagement

“Measuring User Engagement” was a collaboration between academic and industry researchers. As a result of our unique perspectives, we were able to combine small-scale (studies with handfuls of participants in lab or naturalistic settings) and large-scale (millions of data points from web searchers) to highlight existing and emerging methods and measures of user engagement. A great contribution of the text is that we look at self-report measures (e.g., questionnaires, such as the User Engagement Scale I developed), physiological (e.g., eye tracking), and behavioural (e.g., mouse clicks) measures, but also propose a research agenda for more work in the areas of mobile user engagement, longitudinal studies, mixed methods research, and studies where “small-scale” approaches inform large-scale, and vice versa. Ultimately, many stakeholders – from libraries to search engine companies, to marketers and e-learning educators and developers, have a vested interest in understanding if people are engaged in computer-mediated environments, and how to reliably measure this engagement for the purpose of understanding how to design better systems and applications, improve services and access to collections, etc.

Currently, Mounia Lalmas (Principle Scientist, Yahoo! Research) and I are collaborating once again. We are in the process of producing an edited book called, “Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives on User Engagement” to be published by Springer in 2015 which features contributions from international scholars. The book consists of two sections: Foundations (theory, models, measurement and design) and Applications (online news media, learning technologies, gaming, graphic and visualization systems, online search, and health applications). The text will unite different disciplinary perspectives, serve as a vital resource for students, professionals and researchers in a variety of domains, and propose a research agenda for pushing the field of user engagement forward.

Measuring User Engagement
Mounia Lalmas, Yahoo Labs
Heather O’Brien, University of British Columbia
Elad Yom-Tov, Microsoft Research

Paperback ISBN: 9781627052610, $40.00
eBook ISBN: 9781627052627
November 2014, 132 pages


User engagement refers to the quality of the user experience that emphasizes the positive aspects of interacting with an online application and, in particular, the desire to use that application longer and repeatedly. User engagement is a key concept in the design of online applications (whether for desktop, tablet or mobile), motivated by the observation that successful applications are not just used, but are engaged with. Users invest time, attention, and emotion in their use of technology, and seek to satisfy pragmatic and hedonic needs. Measurement is critical for evaluating whether online applications are able to successfully engage users, and may inform the design of and use of applications. User engagement is a multifaceted, complex phenomenon; this gives rise to a number of potential measurement approaches. Common ways to evaluate user engagement include using self-report measures, e.g., questionnaires; observational methods, e.g. facial expression analysis, speech analysis; neuro-physiological signal processing methods, e.g., respiratory and cardiovascular accelerations and decelerations, muscle spasms; and web analytics, e.g., number of site visits, click depth. These methods represent various trade-offs in terms of the setting (laboratory versus “in the wild”), object of measurement (user behaviour, affect or cognition) and scale of data collected. For instance, small-scale user studies are deep and rich, but limited in terms of generalizability, whereas large-scale web analytic studies are powerful but negate users’ motivation and context. The focus of this book is how user engagement is currently being measured and various considerations for its measurement. Our goal is to leave readers with an appreciation of the various ways in which to measure user engagement, and their associated strengths and weaknesses. We emphasize the multifaceted nature of user engagement and the unique contextual constraints that come to bear upon attempts to measure engagement in different settings, and across different user groups and web domains. At the same time, this book advocates for the development of “good” measures and good measurement practices that will advance the study of user engagement and improve our understanding of this construct, which has become so vital in our wired world.

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Series: Synthesis Series on Information Concepts, Retrieval, and Services

Series Editor: Gary Marchionini, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Use of this book as a course text is encouraged, and the texts may be downloaded without restriction by members of institutions that have licensed accessed to the Synthesis Digital Library of Engineering and Computer Science or after a one-time fee of $20.00 each by members of non-licensed schools. To find out whether your institution is licensed, visit <> or follow the links above and attempt to download the PDF. Additional information about Synthesis can be found through the following links or by contacting me directly.

This book can also be purchased in print from Amazon and other booksellers worldwide.

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