The amount of information available in the world is staggering and exciting. However, too much information can be a debilitating problem, and overwhelm people to such an extent that they cannot complete the tasks they set out to do. Even e-dictionaries can have so much information that users do not get the information they really need.
Though technology has been the main enabler of the overload of information, it can also be a lifeline. Technology can, and should, be used to enhance e-dictionaries to give users relevant information on demand. Unfortunately, many current e-dictionaries do not make use of the innovative technologies available and drown users in information. This led the researcher to ask to what extent developments in information technology enable e-dictionaries to provide relevant information on demand.
To answer the above question, this study started by exploring the current ideals lexicographers have for e-dictionaries, as well as the technologies available to create such ideal e-dictionaries. General usability guidelines were also reviewed.
Based on this literature review, a set of criteria was developed according to which e-dictionaries can be evaluated. The main criteria are based on issues related to content, information architecture, navigation, access, help, customisation and innovative technologies. The criteria are intended to allow one to evaluate to what extent e-dictionaries make use of technology to really provide relevant information. The criteria were then used to evaluate five e-dictionaries. A qualitative study was done.
Four existing e-dictionaries were evaluated by the researcher using heuristic evaluation. A fifth prototype dictionary, the Afrikaanse idiome-woordeboek, was evaluated by the researcher, but also evaluated by seven users through usability testing.
In the light of the findings of these evaluations, the researcher was able to make recommendations regarding future developments of e-dictionaries.