Introduction to the Special Section: Consumption, Influence, and Participation of Web Users

James Y.L. Thong and Felix B. Tan, Guest Editors
International Journal of Electronic Commerce,
Volume 13, Number 4, Summer 2009, pp. 5.

While the World Wide Web facilitates on-line activities, such as electronic communities and electronic commerce, their success ultimately depends on the participating Web users. Although there is a growing body of research about the Web, there is still much we can learn by focusing on Web users. For instance, understanding the consumption behavior of Web users, what motivates their participation, and what influences them, will be crucial in developing successful electronic communities, effective Web advertising, and Web site usability. The four articles in this Special Section address the role of Web users in these on-line activities through strong theoretical grounding and empirical testing.

In the first paper, “Credibility of Electronic Word-of-Mouth: Informational and Normative Determinants of On-line Consumer Recommendations,” Man-Yee Cheung, Chuan Luo, Choon Ling Sia, and Huaping Chen investigate the phenomenon of electronic word-of-mouth (eWOM), which is changing the way Web users obtain information to decide on their consumption behaviors. On-line communities for eWOM now have millions of members. The authors examined the potential determinants of perceived credibility of on-line consumer recommendations via an on-line survey of 159 participants of an on-line consumer discussion forum in China. They found that the determinants leading to perceived eWOM review credibility and subsequently to adoption of the eWOM review are both informational (i.e., argument strength, source credibility, and confirmation with prior belief) and normative (i.e., recommendation consistency and rating). These findings can inform companies on what aspects of eWOM to pay attention to in developing strategies to benefit from positive eWOM and mitigate negative eWOM.

In the second paper, “Motivations in Open Source Software Communities: The Mediating Role of Effort Intensity and Goal Commitment,” Weiling Ke and Ping Zhang investigate the open source software (OSS) development phenomenon, which is at the forefront of electronic communities. They examined the impact of various motivations that lead Web users to participate in OSS communities (i.e., intrinsic, extrinsic, social identification, and ideology conviction) on Web users’ task performance through an on-line survey of 204 participants in OSS projects. They found that the above relationships are mediated by Web users’ effort intensity and goal commitment. Besides helping to improve the functioning of electronic communities through understanding the behavior of Web users, these findings also provide pointers to organizations on how to harness effective contributions from a volunteer workforce. With the growing popularity of user-led innovations, organizations are creating electronic forums where their customers can share experiences and provide feedback on how to improve products and services.

In the third paper, “Influence of Web Advertising Strategies, Consumer Goal-Directedness, and Consumer Involvement on Web Advertising Effectiveness,” Kai Wang, Eric T.G. Wang, and Cheng-Kiang Farn investigate the effectiveness of Web advertising strategies in influencing the behavior of Web users. Web advertising is one of the backbones of electronic commerce. The authors designed an experiment to examine how Web users’ goal-directedness and product involvement influence whether they take a favorable view of a particular advertising strategy (i.e., variation strategy vs. appeal strategy). They found that the appropriate Web advertising strategies should be implemented in accordance with Web users’ goal-directedness and product involvement to achieve Web advertising effectiveness. These findings inform companies on how to match the appropriate Web advertising strategy to their target audience of Web users.

In the fourth paper, “Attributes of Web Site Usability: A Study of Web Users with the Repertory Grid Technique,” Lai Lai Tung, Yun Xu, and Felix B. Tan investigate Web users’ views of the salient attributes of Web sites that will influence Web site usability, a perennially important topic in effecting successful human-computer interactions on the Web. They examine the sufficiency of the Microsoft Usability Guidelines (MUG), a popular framework for Web site usability, through intensive interviews with 25 Web users using an inductive approach embedded in the Repertory Grid Technique. Based on their analysis of the rich interview data, the authors proposed an enhanced MUG that identifies three additional attributes (i.e., quality of Web site content, Web site appearance, and extent to which the Web site provides convenient services to facilitate users’ on-line activities) as important subcategories of MUG. The enhanced MUG is a valuable reference for Web site developers in developing highly effective Web sites for e-commerce.

These four papers were selected from the papers accepted for the Eleventh Pacific Asia Conference on Information Systems (PACIS) held in Auckland, New Zealand, on July 3-6, 2007. The first paper received the best paper award at the conference. Expanded versions of a selection of the top-ranking papers from the conference were invited for this Special Section. The successful papers went through a stringent review process involving three additional rounds of review.

JAMES Y.L. THONG ( is professor of information systems in the Department of Information Systems, Business Statistics, and Operations Management at the HKUST Business School, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. His research on technology adoption, human-computer interaction, computer ethics, and IT in small business has appeared in Information Systems Research, Journal of Management Information Systems, Communications of the ACM, Decision Support Systems, European Journal of Information Systems, European Journal of Operational Research, International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, Journal of Information Technology, and Telecommunications Policy. He has served as an associate editor for MIS Quarterly and guest editor for Decision Support Systems, Journal of Organizational Computing and Electronic Commerce, and Journal of Global Information Management.

FELIX B. TAN ( is professor of information systems and chair of Business Information Systems at Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand. He is editor-in-chief of the Journal of Global Information Management and editor of the EndNote Resources page on AISWorld Net. He served on the Council of the Association for Information Systems from 2003 to 2005 and is a fellow of the Information Resources Management Association and the New Zealand Computer Society. Dr. Tan is internationally known for his work in global IT. His current research interests are in e-commerce, global information management, business-IT alignment, and IT management. Dr. Tan has published in MIS Quarterly, Information & Management, Journal of Information Technology, IEEE Transactions on Engineering Management, IEEE Transactions on Personal Communications, Information Systems Journal, and International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction.