Consumers judge Web sites superficially

January 1, 2003

Pharmaceutical Representative

Consumers use the wrong criteria to evaluate the credibility of online health information sites, according to a survey by WebWatch.

Consumers use the wrong criteria to evaluate the credibility of online health information sites, according to a survey by Yonkers, NY-based Consumer WebWatch. The study contrasted the criteria used by consumers and experts to evaluate health Web sites.

The results of the study showed that the average consumer paid far more attention to the superficial aspects of a site than to its content. For example, 41.8% of consumers made note of a site's visual cues when assessing health sites, compared with the 7.6% of surveyed health experts who mentioned such visual design issues.

Credibility counts

Overall, the experts were far less concerned about the surface aspects of health Web sites than consumers and more concerned about the breadth, depth and quality of sites' information. The study found that health experts assigned more credibility to health sites that provided information from reputable sources, disclosed the names and credentials of authors, and included citations for each article published.

The health experts most often relied on the name reputation of a site, its operator or its affiliates when assessing the credibility of health Web sites (43.9% of expert comments related to this credibility criterion). Other common issues mentioned when evaluating site credibility were information source, which relates to the citation of a site's information sources (25.8%), and company motive, which relates to a user's perception of the motive of the organization behind the site, whether good or bad (22.7%). PR

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