Making the Semantic Web usable: interface principles to empower the layperson


  • Stephen Davies University of Mary Washington
  • Chris Donaher University of Mary Washington
  • Jesse Hatfield University of Mary Washington
  • Jessica Zeitz University of Mary Washington


Before the overall volume of Semantic Web data will ever approach the order of magnitude of the original Web, tools must be available that allow non-technical laypeople to readily contribute. Both the concepts and surface syntax of RDF are daunting to newcomers, and this threatens to prevent nonprofessionals from having an appreciable impact. We discuss the key features of a tool designed specifically to help novices generate semantic information, with a primary focus on instance data. This paradigm of interaction enables users to make valid RDF assertions while shielding them from many of the complexities of syntax and of resource lookup. We also present the results from a focused empirical study of the behavior of novice users as they created data with the tool. This study sheds light on the usability of specific features, and illuminates some surprising behavioral trends in Semantic Web authoring that should help guide the design of next generation of user applications.

Author Biography

Stephen Davies, University of Mary Washington

Assistant Professor Computer Science