Dressed for Web Success?

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Dressed for Web Success?

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Titel: Dressed for Web Success?
An Empirical Study of Website Quality in the Public Sector
Forfatter: Sørum, Hanne
Resume: In the public sector, we find that traditional face-to-face interaction has, in many cases, been replaced by online communication and transactions during the last decade. The quality of public sector websites is, therefore, of particular importance in order to ensure quality participation in an increasingly digital society by all the citizens. In view of the fact that Norway and Denmark aim to be world leaders of the Web, with regard to innovations, technical standards and user-centred development, easily accessible facilitation for high quality interactions assumes considerable significance. With reference to this particular aspect, the following Ph.D. thesis focusses on perceptions and measurement of website quality and success, by emphasising and highlighting the performance of public sector websites in the Scandinavian countries (respectively Norway and Denmark). This thesis draws on both qualitative and quantitative data collected during the research process. A grounded theory approach is applied in order to investigate explanations of website quality and statistical analysis is performed to examine perceptions of quality and success in websites. In this regard, the webmasters’ perspectives are emphasised, as they are found to be pivotal figures and key contributors in website quality improvements. Website quality criteria, obligated by the central governments are also discussed. These criteria aim to minimise a gap between the governments and the citizens for provision of online information and digital services. The findings and explanations of website quality cover a variety of features and range from technical standards to a broad definition of usability. Pertaining to this fact, added emphasis is placed on actual usage and subjective issues concerning user-friendliness and ease of use, compared to the criteria implemented by the governments, which focus more on objective technical measures. This may explain why users are not actually satisfied with high quality websites, when compared to low quality websites, in an annual assessment of hundreds of public websites based on these criteria. Accordingly, explanations and measurements of quality within the public sector are perceived differently, when taking into account the citizens’ (users’) needs and requirements from websites. Based on the use of quality criteria and evaluation methods applied to such evaluations, there exists a potential argument for adopting an additional user-centred focus. Furthermore, user satisfaction is emphasised as a measure of success in websites and user-centred development is found to be a key contributor. In view of this fact, the findings also prove that the public sector in general should improve and extend their feedback channels, by extending frequency and methods applied in user testing and continuous quality improvements. The fact that government bodies perform testing to a minimal extent and that more sophisticated methods should be included, demonstrates a potential for advances in facilitation for improved and refined user experiences in online communication between citizens and the public sector. In this regard, organisations which perform user testing tend to see a stronger correlation between website quality, user satisfaction and net (user) benefits. The concluding observations in the thesis, suggest that further research can decrease a gap between the governments’ perceptions of quality, and the citizens’ needs and requirements from public websites. Future investments and quality improvements should devote increased attention to testing and issues concerning inclusion of real users, and the benefits of such actions. Implications for practice are also provided in order to move the sector forward and facilitation for improved and refined user experiences and success on the Web.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10398/8922
Dato: 2014-05-08

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