Perceptions of E-Commerce Web Sites across Two Generations

By Smith, Terry J.; Spiers, Richard | Informing Science: the International Journal of an Emerging Transdiscipline, Annual 2009 | Go to article overview

Perceptions of E-Commerce Web Sites across Two Generations


Smith, Terry J., Spiers, Richard, Informing Science: the International Journal of an Emerging Transdiscipline


Introduction

The Informing Science framework consists of three distinct parts: the informer, the delivery mechanism, and the client (E. B. Cohen, 1999). E-commerce vendors (the informers) communicate to and interact with the customers (clients) of the vendor's products and services. This is achieved through a delivery mechanism that is composed of three parts: the Web site infrastructure, its human-computer interfaces, and the communication medium - the Internet. Gill (2008), through a client resonance model, states that the client's initial mental model of the informing system is altered by a series of filters based on various biological, psychological, motivational, and visceral elements and factors. Based on Gill's model, the informer's goal, via the design of the delivery mechanism, is to acquire the client's attention and then to motivate the client to engage in the informing process.

Vendors have choices in terms of the technologies they use to develop and support their Web sites but face challenges in designing Web sites that effectively and efficiently inform many different users with different levels of computer knowledge and Internet experience, differing demographic profiles, and the presence of sensory, cognitive, or mobility impairments. It is the human-computer interfaces that communicate information to the customers, and it is through the interfaces that customers purchase the vendor's products and services, thus communicating information back to the vendor. The success of this information exchange is dependent on the customers' mental model of the Web site, influenced by the customers' perceptions of the usefulness of the Web site and how easy the Web site is to use.

Numerous studies have examined and predicted the usage of e-commerce Web sites using the Technology Acceptance Model and its primary constructs of perceived usefulness and perceived ease of use. The Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) (see Figure 1) states that the success of a system can be determined by user acceptance of the system, measured by two variables: the Perceived Usefulness of the system and the Perceived Ease of Use of the system (Davis, 1989). According to the TAM, a user's perceptions about a system's usefulness and ease of use result in an intention to use or not use the system (Davis, 1989; Venkatesh, 2000). It can be argued that a Web site's usefulness and ease of use act upon the filters, thereby acquiring the customer's attention and motivating the customer to use the system.

[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]

The TAM has been tested in many empirical studies (Burton-Jones & Hubona, 2005), was found to be highly valid and reliable (Koufaris, 2000), and is widely referenced (Devaraj, Fan, & Kohli, 2002). The external variables represent attributes or characteristics of the system, such as the overall design and features of the system; the user's computer skills, capabilities, and abilities; and the user's knowledge, beliefs, and attitude toward computers. Perceived usefulness is defined as "the degree to which a person believes that using a particular system would enhance his or her job performance" (Davis, 1989, p. 320). Perceived ease of use refers to "the degree to which a person believes that using a particular system would be free of effort" (p. 320).

Smith (2008) conducted an empirical study of four e-commerce Web sites with participation from a unique and often understudied segment of the population--the senior generation or people defined as 65 years of age and older (Fox, 2004). The research model that was used, showing hypotheses and construct relationships, is depicted in Figure 2. The null hypotheses (SGH) were as follows:

* SGH1: The senior's perception of the products and services offered by an e-commerce Web site will not have a significant effect on the senior's perceived usefulness of an e-commerce Web site.

* SGH2: The senior's perception of the perceived usefulness of an e-commerce Web site will not have a significant effect on the senior's attitude toward using an e-commerce Web site. …

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