Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Business Administration


Faculty of Business and Law

First Advisor

Assistant Professor Dieter Fink


Public Accounting (PA) firms play an important role in both the local and the international business environment. Their accounting and business services functions cut across organisations, sectors and industries. Like other professional service firms, PA firms are becoming concerned about the World Wide Web (web) since the services they offer can be delivered via the web more efficiently (eg. at a lower cost) and effectively (24/7). Thus there is a need to assess the quality of their web site. This study developed an instrument for measuring PA web site quality based on an extensive literature review which identified the previously widely used "WebQuaL (TMI)” questionnaire but extended it to four quality dimensions (usability, information quality, interactivity and riskiness), supported by 24 research variables. Design Science, as conceptualised by Hevner et al. (2004), provided the guiding theory for the research. Hevner et al. (2004) proposed a framework consisting of seven guidelines to guide Information Systems (IS) researchers and practitioners on how to conduct, evaluate and present design science research. Two of the guidelines, namely design artefact and design evaluation, were followed in this study. The study was executed in a controlled laboratory selling in which post-graduate university students, potential clients of PA firms, used the WebQual/PA questionnaire to evaluate the web sites of six leading professional accounting firms. One hundred-and-two students participated in the study. The data collected was analysed using quantitative analysis techniques to assess the reliability and validity of the instrument and quality of the PA web sites. Moderating factors were investigated in relation to their effect on the constructs and variables determining PA web site quality. A number of conclusions can be drawn from the outcome of the study. They cover practical as well as theoretical aspects. First, the study provides PA practitioners with validated, reliable web site quality dimensions. With the emergence of online professional services, PA firms will increasingly seek to evaluate the quality of their web sites. Second, this study adds to our understanding of WebQual, an instrument that has been widely used in IS research. WebQual/PA has its origins in WebQual version 4 but was refined to meet the needs of the PA sector. Third, the results of a relative assessment of quality provide valuable feedback to professional practices. The study shows that 'usability' was ranked highest by study participants of all the l1m1s and indicates that this dimension is the most developed dimension within the PA sector. lt is followed by 'information quality'. 'lnteractivity' and 'riskiness' arc areas requiring attention as they seem to lag behind the others. The study enabled recommendations to be made to improve the quality of web sites of the sector as well as the individual firms that were evaluated. In this way, the research adopted the philosophy of pragmatism in which knowledge is strongly linked to action. In the study, the knowledge gained is translated into action via recommendations made to each of the firms. Furthermore, since action permeates on knowledge, there have to be linkages "to an actable world" (Goldkhul, 2004, p. 18). A simple test for this is to be able to trace "concrete consequences" (p. 19). This will occur when PA firms take up the recommendations made in this study.