Evaluating web site quality: the value of a multi paradigm approach
Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Faculty of Business and Law
School of Management
Purpose - The aim of this paper is to benchmark the quality of web sites of major public accounting (PA) firms by seeking the opinions of potential clients and analysing the data to establish best quality practice for PA web sites. Design/methodology/approach - The study was conducted in a controlled laboratory setting in which potential clients of PA firms used a modified version of the WebQual™ questionnaire to evaluate the web sites of six leading PA firms. Design science provided the guiding paradigm but its weaknesses were ameliorated by drawing on constructivism and pragmatism to provide context and practicality for the research. Findings - The study established web site quality profiles of six leading PA firms. The interpretation of findings is influenced by axiology and rhetoric and are both unbiased (determined by statistical means) and biased (influenced by the researchers' values). Data analysis clearly showed that the usability construct reflected the highest quality at all levels while riskiness was the construct with the lowest quality level. Research limitations/implications - The use of multiple paradigms (design science, constructivism, and pragmatism) produced the desired insights to determining web site quality issues for the PA sector for the key reason that they complemented each other rather than being in conflict. However, the usefulness of the approach is dependent on follow‐up research to confirm the findings with the PA firms concerned and to monitor any action taken by them in response to the study's findings. Practical implications - By benchmarking a number of PA web sites, practices within the sector will be able to learn from the findings and be able to improve the quality of their web sites thereby retaining the competitive edge to meet their clients' needs. Originality/value - The paper reflects on the value of the multi paradigm approach to web site quality research design and conduct and discussion of findings. It was concluded that design science provided the necessary research rigour while the other two paradigms enabled the researchers to bring their worldviews on ontology, epistemology, axiology and rhetoric to the research.