Consumers Often Evaluate Health Information Web Sites Based on ‘Look and Feel,’ Study Finds
Consumers often "rely far more on the look and feel" of Web sites than on the reputation and professional credentials of the authors when they decide where to obtain health care information online, according to a new survey set for release today by Consumer WebWatch, a project of Consumers Union, the Wall Street Journal reports. A second Consumer WebWatch survey set for release today found that health industry experts rate Web sites based on "sourcing and credentials" rather than "attractiveness and ease-of-use," the Journal reports. In the surveys, researchers asked consumers and experts to rank 10 major health information Web sites. About 42% of the 2,700 consumers surveyed evaluated the credibility of the sites based on their "visual appeal," but fewer than 8% of experts considered site design in their decisions. The experts said that "reputable sources" and disclosure of the names of authors and their credentials served as the most important factors when they assessed a health information Web site. Consumers preferred commercial Web sites with "graphics and visual clues" and less-detailed information, the survey found. Consumers ranked MayoClinic.com as the "most credible" and criticized the NIH Web site, which experts ranked first, as "overwhelming," the Journal reports. Consumer WebWatch conducted the studies in conjunction with the Persuasive Technology Lab at Stanford University and Sliced Bread Design, a Silicon Valley Web design company (Forster, Wall Street Journal, 10/29). For more iHealth & Technology stories, visit iHealthBeat.org, a new Web publication sponsored by the California HealthCare Foundation.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.