During the soaring information economy of the last decade, organizations spent large sums of money on the development of Web sites without much knowledge of their performance value. In time, organizations realized that measuring Web site performance to determine value was fundamental. For transactional, e-commerce Business-to-Consumer (B2C) Web sites, this effort is straightforward because value is attached to sales. Measuring performance to determine the value of non-transactional B2C Web sites (i.e., sites that provide information, not sales) is more complex.
This study examined the underexplored subject of evaluating non-transactional Web sites. Performance was defined as outcomes ranging from site visitor attributes to business impacts. Value was defined as the degree to which the site contributed to achieving business objectives.
The resulting qualitative, exploratory study involved 45-60 minute semi-structured interviews conducted with 15 employees from four corporations across diverse industries regarding evaluation of non-transactional sites. Each interview was recorded with participant consent and transcribed.
Interview results were aggregated, analyzed, and grouped based on themes and patterns. Logical groupings of participant opinions on topics such as associating Web initiatives to company business strategy, how Web success is defined, comfort with subjective measurement, and value placed on subjective measurement were identified and placed on several continuums.
The study's result is a three phase process to evaluate non-transactional Web sites. Phase one is comprised of four components: 1) identify the company's Web belief system, 2) clarify the company's level of expectation for non-transactional Web sites, 3) determine which viewpoint (business, customer, or both) the company will use to evaluate Web site effectiveness and success, and 4) identify the purpose of evaluating the performance of Web sites. Phase two includes two components: 1) select applicable metrics and 2) collect appropriate data. To supplement Phase two, three tools/guides were developed: 1) expectations/evaluation considerations matrix, 2) sample business viewpoint metrics and 3) sample customer viewpoint metrics. Phase three consists of two components: 1) analyze the data and identify insights and 2) act upon the results. Together, this three phase process and accompanying tools constitute a practical framework for evaluating non-transactional Web sites.