Measuring Website Quality: Applying Cue Utilization Theory to WebQual
Cue Utilization Theory is applied to analyze the comparative importance of each of the WebQual dimensions ( Informational Fit-to-Task, Tailored Information, Trust, Response Time, Ease of Understanding, Intuitive Operations, Visual Appeal, Innovativeness, Emotional Appeal, Consistent Image, On-line Completeness, and Relative Advantage ) in finding consumers ‘ rating of website quality. Two surveies have been designed for this undertaking. Study 1 qualifies how topics rate the prognostic value ( PV ) and assurance value ( CV ) of each dimension. An analysis of these consequences provides an ability to suit the WebQual dimensions to a 2×2 theoretical account demoing the comparative magnitude that each dimension has on consumers ‘ rating of website quality. Study 2 is designed to prove the viability of the theoretical account via a set of proposed hypotheses. The consequences from this research will lend to the field by supplying a theoretical account that developers can use to concentrate on those features most deterministic of overall website quality.
In the last 10 old ages, online shopping has become a prevailing portion of the mean consumer ‘s shopping experience. The consumer now has the ability to buy virtually anything on-line ; runing from small-ticket points such as a rubber-band ball to bigticket points like holiday places. With this addition in the on-line consumer ‘s buying power and leaning to buy online, retail merchants have become progressively willing to develop their e-commerce presence. Furthermore, this detonation of Internet activity has prompted concerns to demand that website developers understand the qualities of a web site that serve to ease the shopping experience for e-commerce consumers. At the same clip, this growing of e-commerce has provided a practical overplus of new options for offenses of chance such as individuality larceny. The on-line shopper has to worry non merely about happening the perfect merchandise, but they besides have to measure the web site to find if they are willing to do a purchase from this site.
Valacich, Parboteeah and Wells [ 1 ] developed the Online Consumer ‘s Hierarchy of Needs to define the demands of the on-line consumer. Their theoretical account showed that certain cardinal demands exist that the on-line consumer must hold met before they are willing to use a web site. These cardinal demands are so farther interrupt down into the specific website characteristic classs of Functional Convenience, Representational Delight and Structural Firmness. Functional Convenience is the class leting the consumer to carry through the task-athand easy and includes properties, such as easiness of telling and tracking. Representational Delight is characterized by those dimensions that make the site visually appealing, such as artworks and sizing. Structural Firmness consists of cardinal qualities such as response clip and security. Using this Hierarchy of Needs, a consumer interested in on-line banking would necessitate to hold their basic demand for each of these features met before they would be willing to utilize the web site.
This Hierarchy of Needs theoretical account shows those features that are necessary for a consumer to use a web site, and farther elaborates by demoing which features are most of import depending on if the consumer is sing the web site for concern, pleasance or a combination of the two [ 1 ] . Knowing these features is of import for development of the web site, but besides implies that the consumer ‘s degree of assurance in measuring these features of a web site is of peculiar importance to their overall appraisal of a given web site ‘s quality. Traditional selling literature suggests that when people make appraisals of quality, they tend to utilize informational cues that are non merely prognostic, but besides easy to measure. This is known as the Cue Utilization Theory [ 2 ] , and has been paramount in measuring consumers ‘ perceptual experiences of merchandise quality.
This research undertaking elaborates on consumers ‘ inability to measure all relevant cues during the on-line shopping experience. A theoretical account is developed utilizing Cue Utilization Theory [ 2 ] and WebQual [ 3 ] to demo the properties of a web site that are the most deciding of how a consumer will respond to the web site. This theoretical account will supply a deeper apprehension of the rating of bing and proposed web sites with regard to consumers ‘ assurance in measuring the cues communicated by the web site.
2. Cue Utilization Theory
Richardson, Dick and Jain [ 2 ] employed Cue Utilization Theory in their research to find how consumers viewed shop trade name quality vs. nationally branded ware. Harmonizing to this theory, “ … merchandises consist of an array of cues that serve as foster indexs of quality to shoppers” [ 2 ] . This theory purports that cues are evoked by the two separate dimensions of prognostic and assurance values. The prognostic value ( PV ) is “ … the grade to which consumers associate a given cue with merchandise quality” [ 2 ] . Confidence value ( CV ) is “ … the grade to which consumers have assurance in their ability to utilize and justice that cue accurately” [ 2 ] .
Further, based on comparative differences in PV and CV, cues can be broken down into the distinguishable countries of extrinsic and intrinsic. The American Heritage dictionary describes intrinsic as, “Of or associating to the indispensable nature of a thing ; inherent” [ 4 ] and extrinsic as, “not organizing an indispensable or built-in portion of a thing ; extraneous.” [ 5 ] From this definition, an intrinsic property would be one that would basically change the focal object ( e.g. , merchandise ) if it was changed or absent and, per Cue Utilization Theory, would possess an inherently high grade of PV. Alternatively, an extrinsic property would be one that would non change the cardinal nature of the focal object in its absence but might change a consumer ‘s reaction or perceptual experiences of the object. Per Cue Utilization theory, an extrinsic cue would typically hold higher grades of CV compared to PV.
For illustration, when looking at a picture card on an e-commerce web site it could be said that the merchandise monetary value is an illustration of an extrinsic property of the picture card. While the picture card ‘s dimensions and material composing of the picture card service as intrinsic indexs. Further, you could contend that the mean consumer has a higher Curriculum vitae in their ability to judge the quality of the card based on the monetary value instead than the material composing. Though the consumer knows that the dimensions and material composing of the card are of import, they will be given to trust on monetary value as an informational cue, as that is the cue that they feel the most comfy evaluating.
When sing the quality of a web site there are a myriad of dimensions that the consumer mustevaluate to find if they intend to execute a dealing on this web site. From the Valacich et al [ 1 ] article the consumer ‘s basic demands in footings of Structural Firmness, Functional Convenience and Representational Delight must wholly be met before the consumer will see making concern. To find if these demands are being met the consumer will measure the cues they perceive as being exhibited from the web site. These cues can be farther broken down into constituents by using the WebQual theoretical account [ 3 ] .
WebQual consists of 12 dimensions: Informational Fit-to-Task, Tailored Information, Trust, Response Time, Ease of Understanding, Intuitive Operations, Visual Appeal, Innovativeness, Emotional Appeal, Consistent Image, On-line Completeness, and Relative Advantage. Each of these dimensions is shown to hold strong measuring cogency in respects to the consumer ‘s rating of overall website quality [ 3 ] .
Information fit-to-task is an merger of information quality and functional fit-to-task [ 3 ] . In component signifier, information quality refers to the information ‘s rightness for usage or ability to run into the users ‘ demands [ 6 ] . Functional Fit-to-Task can be represented as the grade the engineering assists the user at a given undertaking [ 7 ] . Pulling these two constituents back together as a whole and associating them to cyberspace lends acceptance to the definition that information fit-to-task is helping the user in their desired undertaking by showing relevant/appropriate information. Loiacono, Chen, and Goodhue [ 8 ] define this as “The information provided meets task demands and improves performance” .
The ability for consumers to orient the information displayed on a web site to run into their demands is the basic signifier of Tailored Information. Tailored Information is farther characterized by Ghose and Dou [ 9 ] as the interactivity of the web site, and represents the consumers ‘ ability to modify information presented on the web site. Recent research suggests that website interactivity will take consumers to be more positive in their rating of web sites [ 9 ] . This construct has besides been operationalized as the ability to personalise information between the consumer and the website [ 8,10 ]
Trust, in relation to web sites, is defined in an highly simple signifier as consumers ‘ assurance that any information entered into the web site will stay confidential and that said information will be transmitted and stored in a unafraid manner [ 8 ] . Furthermore, trust is holding religion that the information presented on the web site is true and accurate [ 11,12 ] . Lack of Trust has been cited as one of the chief hinderances to completion of e-commerce minutess [ 14,11,15 ]
Response Time ( aka. download clip or download hold ) is defined by Rose and Straub [ 16 ] as “ … the clip it takes for a web client to to the full have, procedure, and show files” ( p. 56 ) , and is ranked as one of the largest hindrances to electronic commercialism in their research. Additional research has reinforced that Response Time can be an hindrance to e-commerce, and that is it besides strongly associated with web site success [ 17,18 ]
The consumers ease in groking the web site is the Ease of Understanding. Loiacono et Al. [ 8 ] describe this in footings of a web site ‘s easiness of reading and the comprehensibility of said web site. This would include things like showing the information in a mode which is easy for the consumer to absorb, and in a manner such that the consumer can rapidly voyage to the desired information.
Intuitive Operationss trades with the serviceability of a web site, and includes points such as navigability, link arrangement, operation, and altering the colour of visited links [ 19 ] . Intuitive Operationss could be thought of as doing the web page easy to voyage, and supplying intuitive options for available undertakings [ 8 ]
Ocular Appeal is how aesthetically delighting the web site is to the consumer. Determining what is aesthetically delighting is complicated though ; it ranges from the overall complexness of the website [ 20 ] and the layout of the interface [ 21 ] to how many ads and artworks are appropriate on a given page [ 22 ]
Innovativeness is “The creativeness and singularity of a site design” [ 8 ] . This could include constructs such as a web site holding a new manner of showing its ware ( e.g. Woot.com ) or a website attempting to orient the information to consumer penchants ( e.g. Amazon.com )
Emotional Entreaty can be elicited in many signifiers and can be thought of as the consumers ‘ strength of engagement given the emotions that the website elicits [ 8 ] . This is frequently seen in the signifier of testimonies presented on the web site, but can besides be observed by simple things such as a consumer ‘s reaction to a Valentine ‘s Day card.
Loiacono et Al. [ 8 ] articulate Consistent Image as the web site ‘s ability to project a company image that is compatible with the company image shown in other signifiers of media channels. For case, a traditional brick-and-mortal shop would desire to guarantee that their web site was exposing a compatible image so that they could capitalise on synergisms created by marketing in multiple channels such as cost nest eggs, market extension and improved Trus [ 23 ] .
Showing all the information required for the undertakings that the web site is designed for would be considered On-line Completeness. This would include undertakings such as the ability to finish an on-line dealing on e-commerce sites. A bank for case would desire omnipresent history entree utilizing all available channels, and the information presented in each of these channels has to be on the same update rhythm as to show the client the same information regardless of channel [ 6 ] .
Relative Advantage is deriving a competitory advantage by being able to make something better than the competition. This could come in the signifier of supplying better interaction with the client through the website [ 8 ] , being able to supply more accurate and timely informations through your web site than the competition [ 6 ] or being able to monetary value merchandises lower than the competition because of decreased monetary values in your supply concatenation.
Each of these dimensions is so tied back into the consumer ‘s purpose to use/reuse the site. Trust and Response Time, being cardinal indexs, are straight linked to the consumer ‘s purpose to utilize the site. Common sense would state us that consumers are non traveling to shop on a site that does non react quickly to petitions. Likewise, if users ‘ do n’t swear the site to maintain their information secure, they are non likely to provide the information in the first topographic point. The staying dimensions are all to the full mediated by Usefulness, Ease of Use and Entertainment. Usefulness mediates Informational Fit-to-Task, Tailored Information, Online Completeness and Relative Advantage. Additionally, Ease of Use is partly mediated by Usefulness. Ease of Use mediates Ease of Understanding and Intuitive Operations. Finally, Entertainment mediates Ocular Appeal, Innovativeness, Emotional Appeal and Consistent Image ( See WebQual theoretical account in Figure 1 ) .
Consumers do non merely shop a site and measure each of these single traits though. Consumers alternatively tend to analyze a website utilizing those cues that they feel confident in their ability to measure successfully. To understand this issue farther, WebQual demands to be combined with Cue Utilization Theory to explicate the extrinsic/intrinsic nature of each of these dimensions.
4. Cue Utilization/WebQual Conceptual Model
As Valacich et al [ 1 ] point out ; consumers must hold their basic degree of demands met before any of the other elements of the web site can go relevant to the consumers ‘ experience. To formalize that these basic demands have been met, the consumer will measure those characteristics that they believe to be extremely prognostic of the quality of the web site. This rating will so be declarative of their willingness to go on to utilize the web site.
Both extrinsic and intrinsic cues serve a map in the consumer ‘s overall rating of the quality of a web site, which means that such cues possess changing grades of PV and CV. Literature has shown that consumers tend to utilize a combination of both extrinsic and intrinsic cues when measuring the quality of a merchandise [ 2 ] . An statement can be made about the extrinsic versus intrinsic nature of each of the dimensions in the WebQual theoretical account.
Intrinsic cues are those cues that are built-in to a web site. Conceptually they are the cues that when changed basically change a feature of the web site ( e.g. Ocular Appeal ) . Consumers tend to see these cues as being extremely predictive of quality [ 2 ] . At the same clip, consumers may or may non hold a high grade of assurance in their ability to measure these intrinsic cues because these cues are frequently hard to distinguish. Thus, presuming a Cue Utilization Theory position, a website feature that is perceived to be an intrinsic cue would hold an inherently high grade of PV. Yet, the power of an intrinsic cue for appraisals of quality will depend on the CV of the cue, with higher degrees of CV being optimum.
Extrinsic cues are those cues that are used to measure a web site but are non an built-in portion of the web site ( e.g. Response Time ) . Consumers tend to hold a batch of assurance in their ability to measure these cues in respects to appraisal of quality [ 2 ] . On [ the other manus, consumers typically do non rate these cues as being extremely prognostic ( as compared to intrinsic cues ) of the overall quality of the web site. Sing extrinsic cues from a Cue Utilization Theory position, a website feature that is perceived to be an extrinsic cue would hold an inherently high grade of CV.
Shown in Table 1 is a 2×2 matrix stand foring how each of the combinations of CV and PV will act upon consumers ‘ willingness to execute undertakings on a given web site. As shown, features with high CV and high PV are believed to hold the largest consequence on consumers ‘ perceptual experiences of website quality. Those with low CV and PV would hold a little to none existing consequence, and those high on one dimension but low on the other would hold a moderate consequence. Following, we will situate about how variable grades of cue PVs and CVs, severally, will impact consumer perceptual experiences of overall website quality.
Relative Advantage is frequently considered an of import facet of web sites as discussed antecedently. However, from a Cue Utilization Theory perspective the consumer may see, at most, merely a obscure feeling about the Relative Advantage of the web site. As such they would non put much value in their assurance in measuring this feature, which would ensue in a low CV. Along the same lines the mean consumer would besides non truly take Relative Advantage into consideration when they were executing undertakings, connoting a comparatively low degree of PV. Thus, website features that fall into the quarter-circle in the theoretical account with low degrees of both PV and CV would hold a little impact on consumers ‘ willingness to execute undertakings on a web site.
H1: A website characteristic with low CV & A ; low PV will bring forth a little to none existing consequence on the consumers ‘ perceptual experience of website quality.
A characteristic such as Trust is extremely prognostic of consumers ‘ willingness to utilize a web site, but the mean consumer may non hold much assurance in their ability to measure this feature. Trust in an online medium has been shown to be an property that is difficult for the consumer to measure and in some instances to even specify. Cue Utilization Theory suggests that though this characteristic is extremely prognostic of website quality, consumers ‘ deficiency of assurance in measuring the feature may suppress their ability to utilize the characteristic to measure the quality of the web site. Furthermore, dimensions in this quarter-circle, high PV/Low CV, have been shown to be comparatively intrinsic to the website [ 2 ] , and will hold a moderate consequence on the consumers ‘ rating of the web site ‘s quality.
H2a: A website characteristic with low CV & A ; high PV will bring forth a moderate consequence on consumers ‘ perceptual experience of website quality.
One could ground that Response Time is a good illustration of an extrinsic property because it is non portion of the built-in composing of the web site. Rather, Response Time could be considered extrinsic because it can change without altering anything about the content of the web site. Rose and Straub [ 16 ] have shown in their research that consumers tend to impute deficiency of reactivity to extrinsic factors such as the overall velocity of the cyberspace, their ain cyberspace connexion being slow, or other factors. In general, consumers seem to be willing to give the web site the benefit of the uncertainty when slow response times are encountered, and as such, Response Time could be considered extrinsic to the web site because it does n’t cardinal alter the consumer ‘s perceptual experience of the web site when it is altered. Based on Cue Utilization theory attributes with a low PV and high CV ( such as Response Time ) will merely hold a moderate influence on the consumers ‘ ratings of website quality, and those dimensions belonging to this quarter-circle would be extrinsic to the website [ 2 ] .
H2b: A website feature with high CV & A ; low PV will bring forth a moderate consequence on consumers ‘ perceptual experience of website quality.
Cue Utilization Theory suggests that those features with High CV and PV are the most extremely prognostic of consumers ‘ perceptual experience of website quality. Ocular Appeal could be considered an intrinsic property because it is a characteristic inherent to the web site that consumers are confident in utilizing to measure website quality. One could farther theorize that Ocular Appeal is intrinsic to the web site because if the Visual Appeal of the web site was changed it would change the built-in nature of the web site. Lindgaard, Fernandes, Dudek, and Brown [ 24 ] have shown in their research that consumers form sentiments about web sites within the first 50 msecs ( MS ) of exposure. Furthermore, this initial perceptual experience of web sites is about wholly based on Ocular Appeal ; this was shown by correlating the evaluations between 50 MSs and 500 MS. However, though this property is intrinsic it shows an optimally high degree of CV and PV therefore puting it steadfastly into the high impact quarter-circle. Dimensions in this quarter-circle would exhibit the optimum balance between PV and CV ( i.e. , an optimum intrinsic cue ) , and as such this quarter-circle of the tabular array is hypothesized to hold the largest impact on the consumers ‘ rating of the web site ‘s quality.
H3: A website feature with high CV & A ; high PV will bring forth the largest consequence on consumers ‘ perceptual experience of website quality.
5. Research Method
To prove these hypotheses two empirical surveies will be administered. Study 1 is designed to find where each of the WebQual dimensions fit into the 2×2 theoretical account shown in Table 1. Furthermore, this survey is designed to find if a important difference can be perceived to be between each of the dimensions when rank ordered by PV and CV. Study 2 will prove the hypotheses by roll uping informations on each of these dimensions utilizing a sample web site, and comparing existent consequences to those found in the first survey.
5.1 Study 1
This survey will concentrate on finding the CV and PV for each of the 12 dimensions of website quality, and finding if there is a important difference between next dimensions when rank ordered.
5.1.1 Subjects. Approximately 500 topics will be recruited from an introductory Information Systems category held on campus at a big Northwestern University. Additionally, about 125 topics will besides be recruited from a distance instruction category offered by the same university. Subjects physically present on campus will finish the study during their regular talk times, and the distance instruction participants will hold one hebdomad to finish the study on their ain personal computing machine. All informations for Study 1 will be collected during the autumn of 2009. Subjects will be given class recognition for finishing the study, and no other inducements will be provided.
5.1.2 Survey Procedure. The study is broken into two subdivisions, one for CV and one for PV. In the CV subdivision topics are presented with a scenario about shopping on the Internet and asked about their assurance in measuring each of the 12 WebQual dimensions when shopping on the Internet for a merchandise ( e.g. Amazon.com ) or Service ( e.g. Bank of America ) . For this series of inquiries, the topics will be required to rate each of the 12 WebQual dimensions on a 10-point likert-type graduated table with Confident/Not Confident being the top and bottom terminal of the graduated table. Finally, the topics are asked to rank order the dimensions from the 1s they have the highest assurance in measuring to the 1s they have the least assurance in measuring.
The 2nd subdivision is designed to mensurate the PV of each of the 12 dimensions. Subjects are put in a conjectural state of affairs where they are in charge of planing a web site for their employer. The first measure towards planing the web site is to make up one’s mind the comparative importance of each of the 12 dimensions in respects to consumers ‘ rating of the overall website quality. For this series of inquiries, the topics will be required to rate each of the 12 dimensions on a 10-point likert-type graduated table with Important/Not Important being the top and bottom terminal of the graduated table. The topics are so asked to rank order each of the 12 dimensions with regard to how prognostic of website quality the topic believes each dimension to be.
5.1.3 Data Analysis. Aggregating the consequences of this information aggregation will let each of the dimensions to be mapped to a CV and PV graduated table. Based on the comparative PV and CV tonss, each of the dimensions will be integrated into the 2×2 matrix shown in Table 1. Furthermore, the comparative magnitude of each dimension will bespeak the comparative consequence each dimension will hold on the overall evaluation of website quality.
5.2 Study 2
This survey will use topics from an introductory Information Systems category taught in the autumn of 2009. Approximately 500 pupils will take part. This survey will concentrate on first finding the overall quality attributed to a web site by the topics, and secondly how the topics rate each of the 12 WebQual dimensions for each web site. Using arrested development analysis, we should so be able to demo that the theoretical account accurately predicts the website quality based on the evaluation of each of the 12 dimensions.
Furthermore, the form of consequences from this survey will analyze how good the WebQual dimensions fit to the quarter-circle they were assigned in Study 1, and that the theoretical account developed in Study 1 is prognostic of the responses received in Study 2. Those dimensions that serve as the highest-level indexs of website quality should be rated the highest by the topics, and those that are the lowest should be rated similarly. Ideally, this survey should supply important support for each of the proposed hypotheses, and indicate which of the dimensions should be of highest consideration when building a high quality web site.
Initial informations for both of these surveies should be ready to portion at the conference, should the paper be accepted.
6. Discussion and Potential Contribution
As shown in the theoretical account, the most of import considerations when developing a web site are those properties that reside in the high CV and high PV quarter-circle. On-line concerns should pay peculiar attending to the features in this quarter-circle, as the consumer will be given to use these dimensions the most when finding the overall quality of the web site. All concerns seeking to execute minutess within the e-commerce channel should pay attentiveness to these recommendations, but on-line retail merchants need to pay peculiar attending, as this is the primary channel through which they produce gross.
Of secondary importance to consumers are the Low CV/High PV and High CV/Low PV quarter-circles. If an online concern seeks to capitalise on one of the dimensions within these quarter-circles, they need to pay peculiar attending to how they will poke at the consumer into utilizing these dimensions for rating of website quality. This could potentially be accomplished through educational runs or selling literature. Finally, the low CV/Low PV quarter-circle is of limited value to the online retail merchant, and should be removed from consideration when developing a web site.
This article seeks to lend to the field by supplying a theoretical account that can be used to enable web developers to efficaciously foretell the overall quality of a web site based on its design. In following this theoretical account, the developer will necessitate to pay peculiar attending to those properties that are extremely prognostic, from the consumer ‘s point of view, of overall website quality, and as such, the web site should be designed in a manner that encourages the consumer to carry on minutess. Additionally, the consumer will be motivated to execute future minutess from this web site because they are familiar with the layout and possess a high assurance in the overall quality of the web site.
7. Restrictions and Future Research
The primary restriction of this theoretical account is that it is an unseasoned conceptual theoretical account. The premises contained herein are as of yet ungrounded in solid empirical grounds ; moreover, this theoretical account was designed around e-commerce web sites designed to sell merchandises to stop consumers.
Future research could dig into break uping those elements that are the most extremely prognostic of website quality. This research could take each dimension and break up them to their base elements to detect what it is about the dimension that makes it extremely prognostic of website quality. Additionally, the extrinsic/intrinsic nature of each of the dimensions could be explored to find how a company can outdo capitalise on these dimensions when seeking to sell the consumer on the quality of their web site. Either of these attacks could turn out priceless to the field, as they will get down to give the developer a specific set of rules to follow when developing a high quality web site.
Cue Utilization Theory is a construct that has been used in marketing for old ages to find why consumers react otherwise to a given merchandise. The writer of this article has overlaid Cue Utilization theory upon WebQual to plan a theoretical account that is prognostic of the dimensions functioning to organize the consumers overall feel for the quality of a web site. Using this theoretical account, website interior decorators will be able to construct a web site that consumers will be more confident in measuring the quality of, and as such, the consumer will derive assurance in executing minutess on this web site.
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