Corporations are constantly working to maintain an image of trust worthiness and quality. They use various marketing tools to impact upon consumers. Kuzic and Dawson (2004) in their paper discuss how the quality of a company’s website impacts on the overall image of the company especially among those who were studying or working in the area of information systems. They investigated which features of a website most impact upon the user experience and image of the corporation. They sampled a large number of students and concluded that factors such as “the ability to enter the site without having to download software; quick to download web pages; as well as easily readable, clear and easy to understand web pages” were among the highest ranked features. It is obvious that the downloading of software to view a website has a significant impact on the user experience. Therefore it is imperative that when a corporate website is designed that no coding or software should be embedded that may require the user to download additional plugins for their browser.
Designing a website for community interaction is somewhat different than designing for other forms of websites. Feller (2000) discusses the design of Community web site; he mentions three aspects of the community design process that impact on the usability of the site. They are “the interface for registering”, “the interface for contributing” and “the interface for consuming”. The registration interface will be vital as it will be the difference between getting members and not getting members. The interface must be well labeled and not collect any unnecessary information. Privacy is a vital issue here as, “as with the purchase mechanism, it is important the customer respects the customers’ privacy” (Feller, 2000). Paid dating sites are good examples of how clean easy to use web pages attract registrations. The match signup page requires minimal information and is very easy to use, it has drop down boxes to minimize the users effort. Its imagery and slogans tell us what the website is about in an instant. Its registration system is an example of what Maguire (2004) calls “staged obligation”, the potential client is drawn in by being asked for just a small piece of information at the beginning before more information is required on further pages. Contrasting this is the huff duffer sign up page. They approach the concept from a new more creative perspective; however they forget to ask for a confirmation of both password and email address and require all information to be typed.
Another important part of designing a community website according to Feller (2005) is the “interface for contributing” and the “interface for consuming”. He describes how the navigation between content needs to be designed to allow for maximum usability and how leaving comments and approval should be easy. All of these features that allow for interactivity should not obstruct the consumption process. A good example of website that allows for this community interaction without interfering with the consumption process is hub pages. Its articles are the centerpiece of the page but surrounding them are tools to interact with other members. At the top of the page you can share the link on Facebook or twitter, to the right of that you can find out more about the writer or choose to follow them and below you can rate the article up or down or leave a comment. It also has links at the bottom of the page to guide you to another article by this reader. This easy to use “interface for contributing” is seamlessly integrated into the “the interface for consumption”. It in no way interferes with the reading of the article.
Ezine articles are a website that has a very similar business model. However, it does not have the same levels of usability, although the “interface for consumption” is well designed it is not well “integrated with the interface” for contributing. Sharing the article linked to above is difficult, there are a number of links below but they are afterthoughts and the links are predominantly adverts meaning the temptation is to leave the site after reading the article. As can be seen from the above, designing easy to use community websites is very different from designing business websites. Different factors must be taken into account that is not considered when designing a business website or E-store.
We have seen from the above that designing a usable website requires attention to detail. Just as categories of websites differ so do the websites within those categories differ. Each website design process will differ from the one before it and the company’s business overall strategy will also play a huge part in the outcome of the website. Feller (2000) outlines the fundamental questions that web designers must ask before they begin to work , he says that they must “understand who will use the site, how they will use the site , what functionality they will need to use the site and determine what content they will need to use the site”. The designing of a usable website begins from these simple questions but it is a complicated process that goes on long after the site is launched. Today, internet giants like Amazon and Facebook are still striving towards the ultimate usability goal that Steve Krugg set out in 2000. It echoes the mindset of the average internet user and can be applied to all categories of websites. It simply states “don’t make me think” (Krugg, 2000).
The Internet has changed everything; particular has a dramatic impact on business operations. At the same time, the online business to consumer has been growing rapidly and brought a great impact on e-tailors and boosted the development of e-business. The daily growth of the internet and e-commerce has changed the way of marketing and selling of products and services. As a result of development of electronic information resources and the evaluation of “the digital age” product seller and information service providers face many new challenges. Internet is changing the way the corporation conduct business with their consumers who are increasingly expecting higher services, becoming time saved, and wanting more convenience. In addition e-service quality is an essential strategy to gain success.
Developing, launching and maintaining an e-commerce web site is a significant investment for e-commerce firms. Simple e-commerce web sites can cost $1-2 million per year for setup and maintenance, whereas more sophisticated web sites with dynamic capabilities require annual investments nearing $52 million (Rizzuti and Dickinson, 2000; Dalton, Hagen, and Drohan, 2001). Despite the importance of web site development requiring such significant investments, the process of designing high quality web sites for e-commerce is still more of an art than a science. E-commerce companies are still relying largely on intuition when it comes to designing their web sites (Hahn, Kauffman, and Park, 2002).
As a result of the tremendous business opportunity, the number of e-stores has increased by leaps and bounds. Companies take advantage of the Internet as a critical channel for selling goods and services and e-commerce sales, especially, online retail sales jumped greatly. Nielson and Norman (2000) discussed the importance of easy to use web design in their article. They outlined how designing an electronic store that maximizes conversions requires a lot of work and analysis. Switching costs on the internet are low meaning that consumers can easily shop around to find the lowest price; similarly they can leave the site within seconds if they can’t find what they are looking for. Amazon has a number of techniques to overcome the low switching costs. They offer their customers added value in the form of detailed customer reviews, they have a recommended products list which shows customers what similar products they might want to buy, they offer an affiliate program to make customers feel part of the company and finally they have an easy to use purchasing process (Nielson and Norman, 2008). These features combined make for a more pleasant and easier shopping experience. Maguire (2004) adds some further ideas to those outlined by Nielson and Norman above. He discusses the importance of details such as entering credit card numbers. He says that numbers should be broken up into blocks of four just like they are broken up on the card. As Nielson and Norman (2008) outline getting the perfect website design for your e-store is not easy. They stress the need to “observe real customers as they actually use the site”. They say this is the best way to make your e-store easy to use and to improve your conversion rate.
Meanwhile, most e-shoppers’ expectation rose and their satisfaction with e-tailors declined. In addition, only a small portion of the e-customers are repeat customers. The exponential increases in online shopping and the rapid growth in the number of retailers selling online have made the marketplace extremely competitive. In addition, the collapse of large numbers of dot.com companies has required managers to relearn that profits indeed do matter. Service profit chain model asserts that satisfied customers tend to purchase more, increasing the revenue and profits of the organization and customer satisfaction is a critical intervening variable in the model. The literatures revealed that satisfaction is considered as an immediate and important factor affecting online shoppers’ loyalty to e-tailors. Loyal customers can bring many benefits to a firm including a continuous stream of profit
Most companies try their best to continually satisfy their customers because customer satisfaction seems to be an important barometer of customer’s behavioral intentions and has been regarded as an important antecedent of loyalty. In recent marketing research, the measures of perceived quality, satisfaction, and loyalty on behalf of customers have been used to assess firm’s productivity and its marketing performance in the service industry. Consumer satisfaction has been the subject of much attention in the literature because of its potential influence on consumer behavioral intention and customer retention. Similarly, in a B2C channel satisfaction model, satisfaction is considered as an important construct because it affects participants’ motivation to stay with the channel. Online service quality may impact e-tail success through online customer satisfaction and loyalty. Although the relationship between satisfaction and loyalty seems almost intuitive, the relationship has been found vary significantly under different conditions. An understanding of the role, specifically, the mediating role of the satisfaction in the model including perceived quality, satisfaction, and loyalty must be a basic parameter used to evaluate the performance of products and services. Few studies have investigated these issues in an online shopping context, so this study employs an extended model as a conceptual framework to examine the effects of e-quality on website consumer satisfaction and loyalty and explain consumers’ behavioral intentions.
Next years will see more interactive and media rich online stores; more e-commerce through social networks and mobile commerce (m-commerce). More push selling based on consumers’ profiles, needs, and social comments. Marketplaces will become more regular consolidating stores to a common shopping basket for ease of use and security reasons (Tapscott, 2008).
- Dalton, J. P., Hagen, P. R. and Drohan, H. (2001). The Cost of Selling Online. MA: Forrester Research Inc, Cambridge.
- Feller, J. (2000) Customer-Friendly Design for E-commerce. Blackhall Publishing, Cork.
- Hahn, J., Kauffman, R. J. and Park, J. (2002). Designing for ROI: Toward a Value-Driven Discipline for E-Commerce Systems Design. Proceedings of the 35th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS 35), Big Island, HI, January 7-10, IEEE Computer Society Press.
- Krugg, S. (2000) How we really use the web. In: Dont make me think, Que, London.
- Maguire,J. (2004). Site design tips to improve your sales. Available: http://www.ecommerce-guide.com/solutions/customer_relations/article.php/11834_3402191_2
- Nielsen, J. (2000) Design Web Usability, New Riders, United States.
- Nielson,J. and Norman,D. (2000). Web-site usability:Usability on the web isn’t a luxury. Available: http://www.informationweek.com/773/web.htm
- Rizzuti, K. and Dickinson, J. (2000). Satisfying the Experienced On-Line Shopper: Global E-Shopping Survey (Research Report). A.T. Kearney, London.
- Rosenfeld, L. and Morville, P. (1998) Information Architecture for the world wide web, O’Reilly, United States.
- Tapscott, D. (2008) Grown Up Digital: How the Net Generation is Changing Your World. McGraw-Hill.