Optimal experience of Web activities

Hsiang Chen, R. T. Wigand, M. S. Nilan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

348 Scopus citations


This paper reports on Web users' optimal flow experiences (Csikszentmihalyi, 1975b) in the Web environment. The concept of flow was employed to see if there were some positive aspects of Web experiences that could be linked to theory applied to other media and then incorporated into Web design to enhance its utility to users. The notions of the Web as a 'multi-activity medium' and a view of the Web as a 'situated experience' are proposed and verified in this study in order to demonstrate evidence of flow phenomena in the Web environment. Further, in order to overcome methodological hurdles inherent in previous studies, this study employed content analytic procedures to analyze open-ended questionnaires to directly elicit 304 Web users' perceived flow experiences on the Web. Results of this study provide baseline data on the existence of the flow phenomenon in the Web environment, such as factors and conditions associated with the flow experience, causes of Web users' perceived challenges and controls, and Web users' flow feelings and enjoyments. This study also establishes the groundwork for building a situational measuring instrument which may be used to identify Web users' flow experience for further exploration. We conclude that the concept of flow is a fruitful area for research that aims at improving Web design practice. The data suggest that additional research under more rigorous methodological conditions can further specify the factors and conditions associated with flow experiences on the Web.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)585-608
Number of pages24
JournalComputers in Human Behavior
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • General Psychology


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