We evaluate and analyse a framework for evolutionary visual exploration (EVE) that guides users in exploring large search spaces. EVE uses an interactive evolutionary algorithm to steer the exploration of multidimensional data sets toward two-dimensional projections that are interesting to the analyst. Our method smoothly combines automatically calculated metrics and user input in order to propose pertinent views to the user. In this article, we revisit this framework and a prototype application that was developed as a demonstrator, and summarise our previous study with domain experts and its main findings. We then report on results from a new user study with a clearly predefined task, which examines how users leverage the system and how the system evolves to match their needs. While we previously showed that using EVE, domain experts were able to formulate interesting hypotheses and reach new insights when exploring freely, our new findings indicate that users, guided by the interactive evolutionary algorithm, are able to converge quickly to an interesting view of their data when a clear task is specified. We provide a detailed analysis of how users interact with an evolutionary algorithm and how the system responds to their exploration strategies and evaluation patterns. Our work aims at building a bridge between the domains of visual analytics and interactive evolution. The benefits are numerous, in particular for evaluating interactive evolutionary computation (IEC) techniques based on user study methodologies.

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