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Effects of User Control and Perceived Message Tailoring on Responses to a Health Web Site
Unformatted Document Text:  4 Olevitch, & Brennan, 2000). It is assessment-based so that messages can be optimized for the individual. Tailoring can occur with various media, including print (e.g., letters) as well as interactive and online media technologies. Tailoring can be contrasted with the concept of targeting, which involves the delivery of customized messages to an intended group that is defined, for example, on the basis of demographic characteristics. Targeting is similar to market segmentation, in that groups of people who share similarities are the recipients of messages designed especially for them as a homogeneous group. Tailoring can also be contrasted with the concept of personalization, which refers to messages that incorporate the name of the individual but do not necessarily contain content selected to meet the individual’s particular needs. Tailored messages are perceived as more personally relevant (Brug et al., 1998) and as having been written especially for the individual (Brug et al., 1996). Several studies have found that, compared to non-tailored messages, those that are tailored are more likely to catch attention, be perceived as interesting, be read and remembered, be saved, and be discussed with others (see Kreuter et al., 2000). Computer-based message tailoring, like the broader concept of interactivity, can be real or perceived. If the user responds to assessment questions before looking at information delivered by computer or by a web site, it may not matter whether the system has selected content based on the assessment results, because the user may assume anyway that future messages are predicated on those earlier responses. We test this proposition in our study. The perception that a message is tailored to the individual’s needs and interests may be sufficient to increase the person’s cognitive elaboration of the message and depth of information processing and lead them to form more favorable impressions of the quality of the message. Our study examines how users of a health web site evaluate the information presented on the site, under varying levels of user control and perceived message tailoring. We vary the user control options and message tailoring cues to a very minimal extent. This way, we can observe whether a minimal difference in the stimulus materials will be enough to make a significant difference in user satisfaction and perceptions of the content. This minimalist approach to testing interactivity has been used before (Lieberman, 1986; Rafaeli, 1988). It is a conservative approach that allows us to see how little it would take to make a difference. Once the difference is established in an empirical test, then future studies testing more robust or elaborate levels of interactivity can be based on the initial, conservative findings. Hypotheses Desire for more content. Users of an interactive system who experience high user control will be better able to selectively expose themselves to information, choosing content they want to see and ignoring content that does not interest them. We expect that they will more quickly finish reading the content that interests them the most, compared to the group that is only afforded low user control, and will therefore have a stronger desire for additional content to be available. H1: Users who experience high user control will more frequently express a desire for additional content than will users who experience low user control. Quality of interactivity. Previous studies have found that users rate highly the interfaces that afford a high level of user control. We expect to replicate the findings. H2: Users who experience high user control will express higher satisfaction with the ability to navigate the system than users who experience low user control.

Authors: Lieberman, Debra., Lingsweiler, Ryan., Yao, Mike. and Chesler, Zachary.
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Olevitch, & Brennan, 2000). It is assessment-based so that messages can be optimized for the individual.
Tailoring can occur with various media, including print (e.g., letters) as well as interactive and online
media technologies.

Tailoring can be contrasted with the concept of targeting, which involves the delivery of customized
messages to an intended group that is defined, for example, on the basis of demographic characteristics.
Targeting is similar to market segmentation, in that groups of people who share similarities are the
recipients of messages designed especially for them as a homogeneous group. Tailoring can also be
contrasted with the concept of personalization, which refers to messages that incorporate the name of the
individual but do not necessarily contain content selected to meet the individual’s particular needs.

Tailored messages are perceived as more personally relevant (Brug et al., 1998) and as having been
written especially for the individual (Brug et al., 1996). Several studies have found that, compared to
non-tailored messages, those that are tailored are more likely to catch attention, be perceived as
interesting, be read and remembered, be saved, and be discussed with others (see Kreuter et al., 2000).

Computer-based message tailoring, like the broader concept of interactivity, can be real or perceived. If
the user responds to assessment questions before looking at information delivered by computer or by a
web site, it may not matter whether the system has selected content based on the assessment results,
because the user may assume anyway that future messages are predicated on those earlier responses. We
test this proposition in our study. The perception that a message is tailored to the individual’s needs and
interests may be sufficient to increase the person’s cognitive elaboration of the message and depth of
information processing and lead them to form more favorable impressions of the quality of the message.

Our study examines how users of a health web site evaluate the information presented on the site, under
varying levels of user control and perceived message tailoring. We vary the user control options and
message tailoring cues to a very minimal extent. This way, we can observe whether a minimal difference
in the stimulus materials will be enough to make a significant difference in user satisfaction and
perceptions of the content. This minimalist approach to testing interactivity has been used before
(Lieberman, 1986; Rafaeli, 1988). It is a conservative approach that allows us to see how little it would
take to make a difference. Once the difference is established in an empirical test, then future studies
testing more robust or elaborate levels of interactivity can be based on the initial, conservative findings.
Hypotheses

Desire for more content. Users of an interactive system who experience high user control will be better
able to selectively expose themselves to information, choosing content they want to see and ignoring
content that does not interest them. We expect that they will more quickly finish reading the content that
interests them the most, compared to the group that is only afforded low user control, and will therefore
have a stronger desire for additional content to be available.
H1: Users who experience high user control will more frequently express a desire for
additional content than will users who experience low user control.

Quality of interactivity. Previous studies have found that users rate highly the interfaces that afford a
high level of user control. We expect to replicate the findings.
H2: Users who experience high user control will express higher satisfaction with the ability to
navigate the system than users who experience low user control.


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