Chapter XII Web Design and E-Commerce

XII Web Design andE Commerce

Xiaoni Zhang
Northern Kentucky University, USA

Margaret Myers
Northern Kentucky University, USA

Abstract

Computers and the Internet are now pervasive and essential parts of our lives: we use them at work and at home to gather information, for entertainment, and, increasingly, to do business. The Internet allows people to chat with others from all over the world, to follow the news from every continent, and conveniently to shop online at home or at the office. This book chapter covers two important and related concepts: Web design and e-commerce. The section on Web design starts with the overall picture of the Internet, history, Web authoring tools, design rules as well as introducing some research findings on Web design. E-commerce is introduced with definitions, technological acceptance model, online payment methods, online marketing and future developments.


Introduction

E-mail, the net, weblogs, instant messaging, text messaging, spiders, bots, MUDs, flashmob, VOIP. The World Wide Web has transformed our lives with its deluge of instantaneous information. The rapidity of adoption of the Internet by consumers is phenomenal. Within less than a decade, Internet usage has gone from a small, highly specialized segment of scientists and computer enthusiasts to a consumer mass market. Recent surveys suggest that about 60% US population browse the Web on a regular basis (Brown and Sellen, 1). Its impact on legal and cultural norms is pervasive: Congress is currently debating the “Regulatory Status of Broadband,” and the Recording Industry Association of America has recently sued ordinary users of illegally shared copyrighted music. The rest of the world, especially the non-English-speaking world, is rapidly catching up with the Internet usage of the US business and consumer markets.

The Internet has not only transformed our access to information and entertainment, it has also revolutionized our way of doing business. All business transactions first require a flow of communication, and so there is an essential interaction between the informational and commercial transactions. Therefore, because Web design and e-commerce are so closely related, we cover both topics in this chapter, reviewing research in Web design and e-commerce and highlighting issues and problems.


Web Design Essentials

Web design is complex because it functions to facilitate the interface between humans and computers, and to organize information so that the objectives of the Web designer are met. There are key elements to the communication that the designer cannot control. For example, the impact of Web design is affected by the size of monitors, by the browser, the video card, the screen settings, etc., all of which determine the appearance of the Web page. On the Web, what you see is what you get, but not what others get.

Nonetheless, over the years, some basic design rules for Web sites have emerged, along with some notable experts, including Jakob Nielsen and the UK design firm, Spooks. For example, according to Nielsen, “the design elements should always be the same, but the way they are composed should be different because the sites are doing different things. If you think about cars, all cars have the accelerator to the right of the brake pedal. This doesn’t mean that all cars are identical, but the basic elements you need to operate the device follow some conventions.” So, a logo should always appear in the top left corner and hypertext links should be underlined in blue.

One compelling element for Web design is the role of time in people’s behavior. People will abandon a Web site if they get lost or if the site is difficult to navigate. They will not waste time trying to learn an interface. Fast-loading pages make Web surfers happy. People do not have the patience to wait minutes for a page to load. The practical guide on the speed of Web loading is 30 seconds. Other people suggest that if we hold our breath and wait until we need to gasp for air, that period of time is the longest delay that Web surfers can tolerate. In order to build a fast-loading Web page, reduce the amount of data and the size of the graphics.

Design Elements

  • Presentation: A Web site’s presentation consists of text, animations, images and links as well as audio/video elements. The Homepage of a Web site is like a cover of a magazine. It is the place to convey the important basic message to Web users. It is important to keep content to a minimum on the home page so that users do not need to scroll several pages to view it. Therefore, it is better to chunk information and use meaningful links to display the major components of a Web site.
  • Navigation: Navigation refers to the text and graphic links between pages that indicate sequencing between Web pages. Navigation facilitates movement from one Web page to another Web page, and so plays a crucial role in getting site visitors to view more than just the home page. If navigation choices are unclear, visitors may quickly leave to visit other sites which are just a click away.
  • Visual Appeal: Visual appeal defines the aesthetics of a Web site. The colors, text styles and graphics create its overall visual impression. It is very difficult to create a Web site that is both effective functionally and aesthetically pleasing. The field of Web design has mainly focused on the technical and functional aspects of the construction of Web sites. We need models that weigh the analysis of the visual and aesthetic aspects against the functional and technical aspects of Web design (Thorlacius, 2002).
  • Interactivity: Interactivity determines the communication flow between users and the Web site, promoting the exchange of information between the Web users and the virtual company. Effective communications develop strong relationships, which is especially important for commercial Web sites in which interactivity replaces human representatives. A Web site needs to communicate a company’s message clearly in a way that fits in with the overall corporate image. Teo et al. (2003) suggest that increased levels of interactivity on a Web site have positive effects on the user’s perceived satisfaction, effectiveness, efficiency, value, and overall attitude towards a Web site. Web content management is important in the success of human interactions with computers (Proctor et al., 2002) To help ensure that users’ interactions with a system are successful, preparation of content and its presentation to users must take into account (a) what information needs to be extracted, (b) the way in which this information should be stored and organized, (c) the methods for retrieving the information, and (d) how the information should be displayed.
  • Personalization: Most people use the terms customization and personalization interchangeably, but there is an important difference. According to Nielsen (1998) customization occurs when users have direct control on the Web site by using an internal search to produce the desired results. Personalization means that virtual companies provide individualized pages tailored to the user’s specific needs. There are different ways to implement personalization. Some Web sites offer a variety of options for users to choose from and others personalize the Web site for their customers. Amazon.com, for example, provides recommendations to its customers based on their prior behavior. These relevant recommendations are said to have increased the conversion rate of Web browsers to buyers by 20 percent (Steven, 1999). It seems that personalization can improve customer loyalty. A survey by Privacy & American Business shows that a majority of Internet users are willing to provide their personal information and like to receive the personalized commercial information if they are given the choice to opt out. However, as with nearly all aspects of Web design, it is dangerous to generalize.

Popular personalization features in one e-commerce environment may not be effective or useful for other e-commerce domains (Alper et al., 2003).

Web Usability

Usability measures the ease with which a user can learn to operate, prepare inputs for, and interpret outputs of a system or component (IEEE 90). When we extend this concept to the Web, Web usability refers to how easily users of a Web site can achieve whatever it is they want from the Web site. There is a difference between usability and aesthetics. Nielsen distinguishes between look and feel: Feel is the experience of navigating the site, and he argues that the site organization should be user friendly. He has developed five dimensions of usability:

  1. Learnability: How easy is it for users to accomplish basic tasks during their first visit?
  2. Efficiency: Once users have learned the design, how quickly can they perform tasks?
  3. Memorability: When users return to the design after a period of not using it, how easily can they reestablish proficiency?
  4. Errors: How many errors do users make, how severe are those errors and how easily can they recover from those errors?
  5. Satisfaction: How pleasant is it to use the design?

Usability is a concern for marketers because of its potential impact on marketing metrics such as conversion rates that affect profitability. The user interface of a site determines the ease of navigating through its content. Web features designed to enhance the user’s Web experience are considered to improve usability.

Until recently, measuring ease of use was entirely the responsibility of specialists. Usability specialists within companies or Web-development agencies perform usability tests to observe users’ browsing experience and discover usability problems. The results of these tests provide feedback and suggestions for a better design. Multiple usability tests with different groups of users help developers to get complete usability information of a Web site. With advancement in software tools, however, some usability tasks can be automated, including the assessment of downloading time and the identification of broken links. But software tools cannot replace observation for some tasks. Tools cannot detect the subjective measurements of a Web site such as quality of content, ease of learning and ease of use.

Although usability studies have provided useful results in the past, the area of Web usability still needs more systematic research. Most research in this area is considered anecdotal, and often involves small numbers of users. In the emerging digital environment, creating customer-centered Web sites is of great importance. Zhang and Dran (2001) explored user perceptions of Web sites with Kano’s model of quality. They found that customers’ quality expectations change over time. Moreover, customers have different expectations of different domains. Therefore, quality measures need to cope with both changing expectations of the same Web site and different expectations of different Web sites.

Sear et al’s study examined cultural differences on Web usability. Their results indicate that there are significant differences between the US and the Swiss users in Web evaluation. Cultural differences are of particularly significance to the Internet because the information on the Web is accessible to anybody. Designing a global Web site means considering the national differences and providing multi-language access. E-commerce companies must take into account the symbols, texts, graphics used on the Web site that could be confusing or may even be offensive to international Web users.

Cultural differences and the effects of demographic factors on Web usability are other areas in need of study. Practitioners suggest that periodic user testing is an important element in developing and maintaining a user-friendly Web site, but formal usability tests are often expensive and time-consuming. Methods such as free-form site review and structured tasks, however, can provide cost-effective means of assessing the usability of Web sites. A site review is basically an unstructured inspection by a third party, typically focusing on the site’s usability and aesthetics. Web usability assessment needs to be conducted at every stage of the development process. A quick checklist of usability with a few users can give Web designers insightful ideas for improvement.

Such a usability checklist focuses on accessibility, navigation and presentation. The instrument measures the tone and clarity of a Web site. Accessibility at a Web site means it loads at a tolerable speed. It can also refer to accessibility for users with physical impairments. A Web site’s design should include audio effects to help blind or visually impaired users understand a Web page. One of the easiest and most effective techniques for easing blind users’ navigation is to tell them in advance what will be on the screen. It is also considered a thoughtful practice to display narratives beside graphics to aid in visualization. White space and ALT tags can be used in the design of a Web site to visually strengthen it. Web designers should also take into account users with other physical impairments in their designs. For example, people with impaired motion need larger links, graphics and text to enable site navigation.

Usability professionals gain first-hand information on the actual usage pattern of a Web site by direct observation. The site review, the unstructured inspection by a third party, typically focusing on the site’s usability and aesthetics, should include representatives from different user groups. The way users, whatever their physical capabilities, navigate throughout the site, how they search for information, using the buttons and links, and the sequence of clicking these links all indicate the usefulness and users’ perceptions of the Web design.

Speed

Background images often increase the load speed of a Web page. So, in designing a Web site, keep the background images small to reduce the chance that users will abandon the Web site. Research suggests that long load times have a measurable negative impact on readers’ perception of a Web site’s organization and quality of content. Graphics-intensive pages are more likely to be perceived as poor in quality than pages that are text heavy.

A recent Forrester Research (www.forrester.com) poll of online households surveyed participants on Web site characteristics that would drive a repeat visit. Content, ease of use, quick downloading, and frequent updates are important factors. All other factors, including incentives, favorite brands, and cutting-edge technology, were ranked of low importance in attracting more visitors. Quality of content is inherently a subjective measure. But download speed and frequency of updates can be measured in an automated fashion.


Research Summaries on Web Design

In spite of numerous practical guidelines on Web design, there are few academic publications in this area. In the digital economy, developing an influential multinational Internet presence requires designing Web sites to attract more potential customers in a diverse multi-cultural environment. An effective Web site acquires a broad audience. But achieving this goal needs considerable effort. Robbin et al. (2003) developed a conceptual model that differentiates Web site content from design. The content component addresses the issue of what is included in the site and identifies the various types of information and Web elements. The design component addresses layout and navigational structures and features. In their exploration of global Web design, Robbins et al. found that the majority of Web site content features were significantly different across various cultural groups, but that the design features are similar across cultures. In addition, there appeared to be little association between the content and design features and industry. Robbins et al.’s (2003) investigation of accessibility issues of Web sites concludes that globally accessible Web sites improve corporations’ ability to communicate with a wide variety of stakeholders.

Applen (2002) examines tacit knowledge, knowledge management and active user participation in Web site navigation. Consistent interface design improves the performance of users. Ozok and Salvendy (2001) use a comprehensive approach to develop an instrument to measure all aspects of computer interface consistency and assess the impact of linguistic inconsistency of interface design on user performance. Experiments were conducted with 140 subjects using four different tasks and eight different interface types to verify the reliability of the instrument. Nine factors were identified as influential factors to interface consistency: text structure, general text features, information representation, lexical categories, meaning, user knowledge, text content, communicational attributes and physical attributes.

Issues, Problems

In its origins and continued rapid expansion and development, the WWW is essentially an open environment. It is global in nature, and so no regulatory bodies can enforce rules about Web content, information distribution or security. It is left to the individual user to solve the threats posed by virus attacks, pop-ups, especially those with adult content, and other inappropriate banner ads. In a dynamic environment, anti-virus software struggles to catch up with virus attacks. Educated Web users who are security conscious update anti-virus definitions and install security patches frequently to protect their systems from attack.

There are no social norms on the Web. Other forms of human culture have laws, regulations and rules to guide people’s behavior, but the virtual world has not yet developed its cultural norms to encourage a healthy Web environment. Education in Internet usage cannot focus only on the technical, but must also deal with the issues of decent, legal and appropriate Web behavior. However, there will probably always be a tension between the profound freedom available by accessing the Internet and society’s needs for laws and regulations.

There are also major technological issues for the future of the Web. IDC’s 2002 study identified three trends for products in the mature market of word processing and the newer market of Web authorship, including technology for creating text that is enhanced with audio and video elements. First, the sales of the PC market will have an impact on Web authoring software. Secondly, open source software plays a role in the Web authoring tool market. Thirdly, the effect of XML on enterprise applications is still uncertain.


Relationship Between Web Design and E Commerce

As suggested by numerous research studies, Web design significantly determines the success of e-commerce. Rieh’s (2002) study, for example, examines the problem of the judgment of information quality and cognitive authority and defines two kinds of judgment: predictive judgment, and evaluative judgment. The factors influencing judgments include characteristics of information objects, characteristics of sources, knowledge, situation, ranking in search output, and general assumption. Zahedi et al. (2001) examine the perception of a Web document from the perspectives of cultural and individual factors. Recently, Lee et al. (2004) use scenario methodology to analyze e-commerce Web design and the associated impact on customer relationships. They propose that customer needs should be reflected in Web design. Resnick and Montania’s (2003) results also support this line of argument. They argue that some design features have a strong semiotic effect on customer expectations.


E Commerce

Ecommerce, e-commerce and EC are all notations for electronic commerce, which simply refers to any transaction done electronically, usually via the Internet. Fundamentally, e-commerce has changed the way in which business is conducted. It may include “old” forms of e-commerce such as fax, EDI, and the electronic transfer of funds as well as the more recent and revolutionary changes that are now classified into B2B, B2C, C2C, P2P and Mobile commerce (Laudon and Traver, 2002). B2C means business-to-consumer commerce; B2B defines business transactions between commercial companies; C2C enables consumers selling and buying from each other. Online auction sites are examples of C2C. P2P represents Peer-to-Peer exchanges.

Overview

According to a new report from Gartner, the global e-commerce market is forecasted to rise from $1,930 billion in 2002 to $8,530 billion in 2005. ElectricNews reports that European business-to-business e-commerce sales are expected to grow from $500 billion in 2002, to $2,300 billion by 2005. In the B2C market, although some companies have failed and exited the e-commerce market, a recent study conducted by the industry group Shop.org, the Boston Consulting Group, and Forrester Research predicts that B2C e-commerce in the United States will grow from $38.8 billion in 2000 to $184.5 billion in 2004. BizRate reports the average consumer transaction is up from $120 to $127 per purchase and online transactions grew from $69 million in the second quarter of 2001, to $91.5 million in Q1 2002. In addition to these industry forecasts, eMarketer estimates that nearly half of Internet users in the US spent an average $1,089 on goods and services in 2002 purchased online. Jupiter expects online retail spending to reach $105 billion by 2007, accounting for 5% of all US retail spending and influencing 34% of all US retail spending. Table 12-1 shows the payment methods and consumer comfortable level as reported by Jupiter Research (2003).

Table 12-1: Consumer payment methods (Jupiter Research, 2003)

Consumer Comfort Level Using Various Payment Methods, March 2003 by Jupiter Research

 

Comfortable

Uncomfortable

Billed later

68%

18%

Credit card

55%

27%

Debit card

32%

49%

Checking account

25%

57%

Debit with PIN

20%

66%

Table 12-2 shows the top 10 e-commerce Web sites, the size of their consumer markets and the effectiveness of the Web site to reach consumers. eBay which represents C2C (consumer-to-consumer market) in the e-commerce segment, tops the list. eBay is made up of a variety of people: individual buyers and sellers, small businesses and even Fortune 100 companies. The great shopping experience eBay offers to its members, including an interactive environment created by discussion and chat boards, contributes to its success.

Table 12-2: Top 10 e-commerce Web sites (Jupiter Research, 2003)

Rank

Brand or Channel

Industry

Unique Audience

Active Reach

1.

EBay

Auction

14,881,000

17.19%

2.

Amazon

Online Retail

8,795,000

10.16%

3.

MSN Shopping

Online Retail

3,364,000

3.89%

4.

Yahoo! Shopping

Online retail

3,006,000

3.47%

5.

Expedia

Travel

2,752,000

3.18%

6.

Dell

Computer

2,718,000

3.14%

7.

Orbitz.com

Travel

2,371,000

2.74%

8.

Wal-Mart Stores

Online Retail

2,204,000

2.55%

9.

DealTime

Online Retail

2,146,000

2.48%

10.

Travelocity

Travel

2,049,000

2.37%

Development

E-commerce involves both selling and buying, and each needs its own platform. Sell-Side platforms cover content, order, catalog management, analytics, interactive selling, legacy integration and commerce syndication. Only a few vendors provide all these complete functions. Administrative tools include product editors, sophisticated color and font editors, inventory control, automated order status updates, product cloning, coupon activation, personalized marketing tracking, affiliate tracking, html promotional e-mail capability, shipping manager, real-time statistics, and image manager. Powerful administrative e-commerce tools enable virtual companies to better protect their own business and their customers.

Feature-rich software is now increasing the competitiveness of e-commerce sites. It is not advisable to use the plentiful, free but outdated shopping cart software that does not include security and transaction support features. A successful e-commerce site manages inventory, tracks orders, and has a fully edited storefront. Web-based control panels are mandatory for success.

However, it takes more than richly featured e-commerce software to be successful in the virtual environment. Marketing strategies must be designed into the Web pages to increase site traffic, which, as in brick-and-mortar business, must then convert visitors to customers. There are many marketing tools available to persuade visitors to become customers and then to retain their repeat business: coupon activation and other personalized discounts, enabling gift transactions, tracking affiliates, promotional emails, product cross-selling, and so on. When an e-commerce company maintains real-time statistics on inventory and purchases, it can evaluate the effectiveness of a marketing strategy, even adjusting promotions in real-time based on demand and availability of stock.


Recent E Commerce Research

E-commerce continues to face the challenges posed by immature technologies and the absence of necessary standards. Still, the Internet promises significant improvements in performance for companies. A company who is first in its industry to deploy cutting edge technology and innovative business practice will enhance the probability of its success. Moreover, beyond the enterprise of a single company, business partnerships and alliances can be formed to collaborate on the design, engineering, production, delivery, and maintenance of products and services. Sadeh and Lee (2000) explored the usage of middleware to facilitate the decision-making process for virtual companies. They conclude technology can improve business performance, although it takes time for the benefits of such technology to take effect.

Lee and Benbasat (2003) investigate the effects of image size, fidelity, and motion on attention and memory. They applied Reeves and Nass’ studies on human-media interaction to the Web, using empirical data to validate the theory. A laboratory experiment was conducted to test the influence of three Web design features — image size, fidelity (clarity of an image), and motion. They found that the higher visual fidelity of an image, the greater attention users give to it. Fidelity, or clarity of image, then is especially important for pictures of products. Lee and Benbasat also discovered that motion on a Web interface creates greater user attention than a static Web interface. They conclude that an interface with a combination of higher fidelity and motion leads to a greater attention span than an interface with only one of these characteristics. Finally, the size of the image has an impact on memory. Practically, getting customers’ attention and then keeping it has an impact on memory of the Web site, and perhaps ultimately on purchase behavior.

Stylianou et al. (2003) explore the relatively under-researched country – China. With its booming economic development, China will likely become the largest Internet and telecommunications market. By developing a descriptive profile of Chinese business managers with respect to their awareness of the technological infrastructure as well as their perceptions and attitudes regarding e-commerce, they provide insight into the future of e-commerce in China. However, the current Chinese e-commerce infrastructure presents a barrier against its development, and software development is far behind that in the US. China’s e-commerce has its own characteristics. For example, COD is the most common method of payment in China, whereas in the US payments are rendered in the form of credit cards, debit cards or via a third party.

In addition to the quantitative analysis of e-commerce, some researchers use qualitative methods to evaluate e-commerce. Iivari and Janson (2003) investigate four aspects of e-commerce in the automobile industry: strategic understanding of electronic commerce (e-commerce), technological understanding of e-commerce, maturity of the Web site supporting e-commerce, and e-commerce developmental strategy. Their work supports the conjecture that both strategic understanding and technological understanding influence developmental strategy and Web site maturity.

Web design has been examined from the perspective of consumer and organizational buying decision processes. Huarng (2003) suggests that understanding the consumer buyer decision process and organizing e-commerce sites to support this decision-making process could increase purchase potential. Pandya and Arenyeka-Diamond (2002) perform a SWOT analysis on e-tailing and identified key success factors. For the B2B decision-making process, Sadeh and Lee (2003) investigate e-supply chain effectiveness. Pandya, Hackney et al. (2002) studied how electronic commerce revolutionizes organizations’ business models by its impact on the value chain. Kendall and Kendall (2001) discuss the potential for e-commerce to be a profitable and sustainable business model.

Trust as a dimension of e-commerce is of particular interest to researchers because trust is such a significant factor in consumer behavior and in business relationships. Research has demonstrated that online purchase intention is positively correlated with trust. Four factors relate to trust in the virtual marketplace: perceived market orientation, site quality, technical trustworthiness, and the extent of the user’s Web experience. Perceived site quality is positively correlated with perceived market orientation and trustworthiness towards e-commerce (Corbitt et al., 2003). Trust and risk are negatively associated so effective risk reduction tactics improve trust. Positive word-of-mouth, money-back warranties and relationships with well-known business partners are effective in reducing perceived risk. They improve trust, and hence strengthen customer loyalty.

Whitworth and Moor (2003) take the concept of cyber-trust even further. They argue that “legitimacy” is a necessary condition for trust, and that “trust is necessary for productive community interactions like e-commerce.” Whitworth and Moor assert that legitimacy depends on a property analysis — who owns what in IS design. Such a systematic “legitimacy” analysis could apply to a wide variety of social software, they suggest, from chat rooms to virtual realities. It could lead to future global standards for virtual social environment design, standards that are perhaps necessary for the emergence of a global online community.

Technology Acceptance Model (TAM)

The most influential research model used in technology adoption is the technology acceptance model (TAM) developed by Davis (1986). The original TAM model consists of three constructs: perceived ease of use, perceived usefulness and attitude. Later Davis et al. (1989) expanded Davis’s original TAM to include external variables as antecedents of perceived ease of use and perceived usefulness, and attitude and intention as mediator variables of actual use. TAM posits the following relationships: perceived ease of use is positively related to perceived usefulness; perceived usefulness is positively related to usage; perceived ease of use is positively related to usage. Researchers have validated TAM in various technological settings and concluded that TAM is a valid model in explaining users’ behavior and predicting users’ attitude toward a technology. (See Figure 12-1.)

click to expand
Figure 12-1: Technology acceptance model (TAM)

Major Findings with TAM

Gefen (2003) examined habit as another variable that contributes to online shopping intention. He confirmed the TAM model and concluded habit alone can explain a large proportion of the variance of continued use of a Web site. Heijden (2003) empirically investigates an extension of the TAM model to explain individual acceptance and usage of Web sites, specifically, perceived ease-of-use, usefulness, enjoyment, and their impact on attitude towards using, intention to use and actual use. A new construct, “perceived visual attractiveness” of the Web site influences usefulness, enjoyment, and ease-of-use.

Chau and Lai (2003) examine the factors contributing to a consumer’s adoption of Internet banking. They found that personalization, alliance services, task familiarity, and accessibility have significant influence on perceived usefulness and perceived ease of use, which, in turn, were found to be important factors in fostering a positive attitude toward accepting the services.

O’Cass and Fenech (2003) use key consumer characteristics such as opinion leadership, impulsiveness, Web shopping compatibility, Internet self-efficacy, perceived Web security, satisfaction with Web sites, and shopping orientation to understand the adoption of Web retailing by Internet users. They found that Internet users’ perceived usefulness and perceived ease of use are affected in various degrees by opinion leadership, Web shopping compatibility, Internet self-efficacy, perceived Web security, impulsiveness, satisfaction with Web sites, and shopping orientation. Zhang and Prybutok’s (2003) work further confirms the validity of TAM in an online context. By extending and applying TAM to consumer Web shopping experience, they find that TAM is a generic model and can be used to predict consumer behavior. Legris et al. (2003) conclude that TAM is a useful model, but that still other important factors need to be identified and added into the model. They cite in particular variables related to social and human changes.

Online Marketing

Marketing concepts and strategies are as important for e-commerce as for any other business model. The goals remain the same: a Web site must capture the attention of potential customers and then convert viewers into buyers. Research confirms the importance of basic marketing tactics. DiClemente and Hantula (2003), for example, confirm the positive effect of discounts in an online shopping mall. There is one major area of difference, however, between online and traditional commerce: a heightened concern for privacy. Byrne (2003) proposes the importance of seeking permission from Web site visitors before sending personal or promotional packages in online marketing. Milne and Rohm (2003) suggest that managers need to be reminded that consumer privacy concerns associated with the mobile Internet and mobile commerce are different from those in the traditional and online marketing contexts.

Consumers dislike pop-up advertisements and other intrusive and annoying marketing solicitations. Consumers also want to control their personal information. These two marketing elements, the use of customer information and the use of intrusive promotions, are related in the consumer’s mind. Consumers feel their privacy is violated by unsolicited marketing communications, especially product offers, and they feel the same about the collection and use of information that identifies them personally. They fear that their personal information will be misused. Thus, online marketing needs to respect consumers’ concern and protect consumers’ interests. One alternative would enable consumers to opt out of future marketing activities. Such an option might build trust and ease consumer’s worries. It could also generate positive word of mouth, which in turn reduces perceived risk and builds trust.


Future Trends

The Web is in the early days of its evolution, and change has been rapid, but some components of its future can be anticipated. It will always be imperative to follow the basic rules of design: create a consistent look and feel, and make the Web site easy to use. But innovation and differentiation are also important. Web sites need sophisticated designs to be visually stimulating, effectively organized, and easy to navigate. With these characteristics, Web sites can achieve the standard e-commerce goals: to attract attention, to encourage a sustained visit and so move the customer to purchase behavior.

Online shoppers are more likely to order if they have a positive impression about a Web site that has a professional look and feel, and is customer-centric. In many instances, Web page design is the first impression a potential customer has with respect to a particular company. A well-designed and organized site is crucial not just for converting sales, but for establishing loyal and repeat customers.

New tools are constantly in development to meet the complex demands of online enterprise. Unfortunately, perhaps, this extraordinary technology has outpaced appropriate legal and cultural responses. The online community must take responsibility to develop social norms and codes for online behavior. Web sites that cater to consumer concerns about privacy and offensive marketing practices will build long-term relationships with customers. Trust is a competitive advantage for virtual companies.

Voice-over Internet protocol (VOIP) looms as the next major innovation to penetrate, first the business and then the consumer segments of e-commerce. This technology involves much more than using the Internet as a phone route (at greatly reduced costs). Business is innovating this technology rapidly because it allows an organization to connect all their locations using one infrastructure. Between 20% and 30% of all phones currently sold to business in the United States are IP, and the number is expected to grow rapidly. VOIP enables a person to have just one number for real-time voice conversations from all locations. It is one element that will accelerate the rapidly expanding use of mobile devices for e-commerce activities. However, there remain several factors to hinder m-commerce including technology standardization, limited mobile Internet coverage, and poor service quality (Lee et al., 2003).


Conclusion

Building a Web site is now feasible for the millions who browse the Internet. There are plenty of Web authoring tools that are easy to use on the market, with more surely to be developed. To build a satisfactory Web site, however, a designer, whether professional or amateur, must follow basic rules of design. The important components of a successful design include navigation, presentation, content, and interactivity. Unfortunately, most of the Web authoring tools that are easy to use do not have design rules built in, either as part of the help function or as tutorials. In most cases, formal training in Web design is necessary to produce a professional looking and navigable Web site, one which conforms to established standards.

Computers and the Internet are now a pervasive and essential part of our lives: we use them at work and at home to gather information, for entertainment and, increasingly, to do business. As e-commerce evolves as a significant and growing segment in the economy, a successful Web site is crucial to a firm’s success. The characteristics of a well-designed e-commerce Web site include functionality, security, and privacy. Easy navigation, fast downloading, ease of transaction, and ease of submitting shopping items affect consumers’ overall satisfaction with online stores. Although there are visual and audio effects including flashing text and animations, which increase playfulness on Web sites, designers should use such elements with caution. These Web elements can increase page-loading time and therefore lose potential customers. E-commerce is a new shopping channel, but the basics of good business remain unchanged: understand the intended target audience and design the Web site accordingly. Finally, the Internet faces the challenges created by an unregulated environment. In the spirit of its origins, some argue that it should remain unregulated. Others, concerned about invasions of privacy, loss of copyright protection and intrusive advertising feel that rules and regulations are needed to ensure the healthy development of the Internet.


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Web Systems Design and Online Consumer Behavior
Web Systems Design and Online Consumer Behavior
ISBN: 1591403278
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2004
Pages: 180
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