“Usability + usefulness = trust”: An exploratory study of Australian health websites

The aim is to explore users’ reactions to health information web sites from the perspective of trust, retrieval of relevant information and ease-of-use, and to establish the link between perceived quality, trust, and usability. An analysis of three Australian health web sites was undertaken. A usability test was conducted on those three web sites resulting in 207 completed user evaluations. The evaluations included both quantitative and qualitative data. The three investigated health information web sites do not meet the needs of health consumers. More details such as how information is selected to engender greater trust need to be provided. The retrieval of relevant information could be improved through the implementation of functionality such as spell checking and information differentiation. Finally, ensuring web sites are easy to use contributes to the level of trust users have in a web site. This was a relatively small study investigating only three generic Australian health web sites, the results however suggest that a larger study looking at other health web sites is needed. For government agencies developing health information web sites more attention needs to be paid to the design of these web sites if users are to be encouraged to use the web site and return. The research suggests that effective health information web sites must be perceived to be of reliable quality, be trustworthy, have some level of intelligence to assist in the retrieval of relevant information, and be easy to use. Although there is much research relating to the relationship between web site design and trust for e-commerce transactional web sites this work has not been undertaken for web sites designed for information retrieval, in particular little work has been done of health information web sites. This paper fills in some of the gaps.