Improving the Website Design Process for SMEs: a design science perspective
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E-business is particularly advantageous for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) because it helps them increase the scale of their operations quickly and easily. Like all organisations, the success of SMEs in e-business is significantly affected by the quality of their websites. However, compared to larger firms, SME websites often do worse in retaining customer attention, providing them with the necessary information and enabling transactions. Although this is partly due to the financial constraints of SMEs, a contributing factor is the emphasis that website designers place on a website’s usability. By doing so, they are paying less attention to the psychological, cognitive and other needs of the customers who use these websites. The lack of attention to these needs leads to websites that are not well or appropriately utilised, negatively impacting the e-business ambitions of SMEs. This study adopts a design science approach (Hevner et al. 2004; March and Smith, 1995) to develop a new methodology for designing websites that takes these concerns into account. The new methodology is based on multidisciplinary principles from the field of design (Brown, 1999; Shneiderman, 1998), as they provide a framework for structuring the various concerns of users. The new methodology was tested in the design of an SME's website. Once the website was completed, the artefact was evaluated with multiple methods: in-depth interviews with users, user task analysis, and expert reviews. The in-depth interviews were used to evaluate the product (website) and the process (artefact), the user task analysis was used to evaluate the product (website) and the expert reviews were used to evaluate the process (artefact). The users scored the website highly in terms of usability and in meeting their needs, and the experts found the new process to be beneficial. This study contributes by developing a website design methodology that is anchored in its users’ needs, so that the websites it produces are successful in achieving their goals. The study concludes by offering possible avenues for extending the research topic in the future.