Identifying User-based Criteria for Web Pages
by
Eileen G. Abels, Assistant Professor
College of Library and Information Services
University of Maryland
College Park, MD 20742
ea29@umail.umd.edu
Marilyn Domas White, Associate Professor
College of Library and Information Services
University of Maryland
College Park, MD 20742
whitemd@wam.umd.edu
Karla Hahn, Doctoral Student
College of Library and Information Services
University of Maryland
College Park, MD
        This paper reports on Phase I of a two-part project to identify and implement user-based design criteria in World Wide Web pages. The purpose of the identification phase (Phase I) is to identify the criteria that influence a particular user community's use of the Web and to analyze these within the context of the users'overall information-gathering behavior. Data were gathered through a questionnaire and electronic focus group session with nine faculty from four business schools. Participants identified 49 Web page features which clustered into eight broad categories of criteria having a significant positive or negative impact on their use of WWW pages. In ranked order these are use, content, linkage, structure, special features, and appearance. Especially significant are the high ranking of content and the relatively low emphasis on appearance. They also identified types of information normally used in work activities; methods of finding this information within the current information service environment; likely changes in behavior if the information became available via the Web, including willingness to pay. In addition to presenting research results, the article emphasizes the methodological approach of a) using focus groups to obtain user-based design criteria and b) soliciting user input at an earlier stage than other design models suggest.

Keywords:    Web page design criteria, Focus groups, User-based Web page design process, Business school faculty, Business information, Information use