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Web Based Information System Essay

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A model for Web-based
information systems in
Fang Wang and
Milena M. Head

The authors
Fang Wang is a PhD candidate and Milen a M. Hea d is an
Assistant Professo r of Informatio n Systems , both at the
Michael G. DeGroote School of Business, McMaster
University , Hamilton, Ontario , Canada.
Internet , Informatio n systems , Custome r requirement s
Successful Web-base d informatio n system s (WIS) are critical for electroni c retailer s to attract and retain consumer s and delive r busines s functions and strategy . However, the design and developmen t of a WIS may include many business ,

technolog y and user challenges . Understandin g and fulfilling the critical requirement s of thes e challenges will determin e the success of a WIS commercia l application. In thi s paper , we presen t an abstract model for WIS design in e-retailing . Unlike previou s WIS research , this model offers an

integrate d and overal l view , where four interconnecte d
layers are investigated : busines s determinants ; WIS;
busines s interface; and users /customers . Throug h our
discussion of this model , we provid e researcher s with a
bette r understandin g of WIS issues requirin g further
investigation , and provid e practitioner s with a foundatio n to understan d WIS requirement s and feature s for success.
Electroni c acces s
The researc h registe r for this journal is available at
The curren t issue and full text archive of this journal is
available at
Internet Research: Electroni c Networking Application s and Policy Volume 11 . Number 4 . 2001 . pp. 310± 321
# MCB University Press . ISSN 1066-224 3

It was th e World Wide Web that opened the
door for electronic commerce (EC) in the
business-to-consumer (B2C) environment and
created a new business line, called electronic
retailing, e-tailing or electronic shopping.
Individuals can now search information and
shop online for virtually everythin g they need.
Electronic shopping can bring convenience,
competition, new channels for information, and
new models for marketing. It opens
opportunities for both marketers and customers
(Turban et al., 2000 ; Wang et al., 2000).
Central to electronic retailing are Web-based
information systems (WIS). On the Internet,
retailers and consumers interact through WIS
which function as virtual stores. Research shows
that the use of WIS can enhance competitiveness
by supporting the traditional means by which
companies compete, such as lowering costs,
focusing on specific customer groups, or
differentiating their products and services
(Lederer, 1998). WIS may also provide many new
opportunities for companies, such as expanding
the customer base, providing new products and
services, and creating new lines of business.
WIS also create new challenges for e-tailers.
Compared to traditional information systems,
WIS can reach a wider audience and their users
tend to have less system knowledge/training. WIS
may also introduce new managerial and technical
challenges, and guidelines for their design and
development have not yet been well established
(Isakowitz et al., 1998; Gregor et al., 1999).
This paper address WIS design and
development issues for commercial
applications, and is organized as follows. A
literature review examines WIS classifications
and features. Based on this review, we propose
a new model to examine WIS in an e-retailing
context. According to thi s model, issues and
challenges pertaining to users and consumers,
business determinants and the business
interface, are discussed. Finally, we present
some thought s for future WIS research.

Literatur e review
A WIS refers to a Web-based information
system, or a Web information system, which is

A model for Web-base d information system s in e-retailing

Internet Research: Electronic Networking Application s and Policy Volume 11 . Number 4 . 2001 . 310± 321

Fang Wang and Milena M. Head

an information system based on Web
technology (Isakowitz et al., 1998) . A Web
presence is generally a part of a WIS and Web
browsers serve as a common interface. Web
technologies, such as related protocols and
standards, may support the basic functions of
the system.
WIS have become more pervasive and a basis
for e-tailing. Based on Web technology, WIS
have the potential to:
reach a broad audience;
provide rich content and information in a
user-friendly interface;
operate at a lower cost than systems on
proprietary networks; and
seamlessly integrate with other systems to
support business processes.
With increased bandwidth and improved
reliability, more businesses are relying on th e
Web and building WIS.
Isakowitz et al. (1998 ) classify WIS into four
general categories:
(1) intranets, to support internal work;
(2) Web-presence sites that are marketing tools
designed to reach consumers outside the
(3) EC systems that support consumer
interaction, such as online shopping; and
(4) extranets, a blend of internal and external
systems to support B2B communication.
However, in current business development and
industry practice, Web-presence sites are not
clearly differentiated from EC systems, since
marketing sites may often need to support
consumer interaction. A customer oriented
WIS is usually designed as both a Web-presence
marketing tool and a customer interaction tool.
WIS can also be classified according to
business functionality. Electronic commerce
can be divided into business-to-business (B2B),
business-to-consumer (B2C), consumer-toconsumer (C2C), consumer-to-business (C2B), non-business EC, and intra-business
EC (Turban et al., 2000) . A WIS that is
designed to support electronic shopping is
typically viewed as a B2C application.
However, this system may also provide a forum
to develop a virtual community (C2C) and may
be coupled with and supported by systems that

connect to suppliers (B2B) and internal
operations (intra-business). Business functions,
and the systems that support them, are often
closely connected and difficult to separate.
As shown in th e above classifications, a WIS
may serve multiple functions to multiple users.
We suggest it is difficult to separate these
systems into distinct classifications or
categories. Instead, it may be more appropriate
to examine the types of WIS according to the
users they serve and the types of exchange they
support, where any particular WIS may fall into
several groupings. Table I illustrates some
example WIS systems along the dimensions of
primary ‘‘users’’ and ‘‘interactions’’, and some of these examples are briefly discussed below.
This discussion outlines sample systems and is
not meant to be a comprehensive listing of all
WIS systems.
Intranets: support the internal business of
organizations. Intranets support
interactions and exchange of information
among users and can assist in coordinating
cross-functional group work (Archer and
Yuan, 2000) .
Extranets: support B2B transactions and
information exchange. A conceptual
framework for understanding extranet
implementation guidelines is provided by
Angeles (2001) .
E-tailing sites: support B2C information
searching and electronic shopping. Phau
and Poon (2000 ) investigate the type s of
products and services that are suitable for
selling through e-tailing sites.
Consumer marketplaces: consumers interact
with each other (C2C ) or other businesses
(C2B) in order to buy or trade products or
services. Pricing strategie s may include
auctions, reverse actions, dutch auctions,
Table I Example WIS system s





Information sharing

Corporat e portal s

E-tailing sites
Consume r marketplace s
E-tailing sites
Virtual communitie s


A model for Web-base d information system s in e-retailing

Internet Research: Electronic Networking Application s and Policy Volume 11 . Number 4 . 2001 . 310± 321

Fang Wang and Milena M. Head




and collaborative purchasing or exchanges
(fo r details, see Reynolds, 2000) .
Virtual communities: online communities of
interest. The interpersonal dynamics of
these groups are increasingly coming under
the scrutiny of academic research (King,
Corporate portals: single-point Web browser
interfaces used within an organization to
promote th e gathering, sharing, and
dissemination of information throughout
an enterprise (Detlor, 2000) . Portals have
arisen due to the proliferation of
departmental-based Web sites and the
desire to provide employees with both
internal and external company-related
information (Choo et al., 2000).
Hubs: B2B electronic marketplaces. Hubs,
which bring togethe r multiple buyers with
multiple sellers, are proliferating across
many industries (fo r specific B2B hub
examples and characteristics see Archer,

This paper focuses on e-tailing WIS. However,
as shown in Table I, the successful support of
external customers may require employing
various WIS to form an integrated interaction
Many features and characteristics of WIS have
been discussed in th e literature (Bimbo, 2000 ;
Grosky, 1997 ; Isakowitz et al., 1998 ; Gregor
et al., 1999) . For example, WIS characteristics
outlined by Gregor et al. (1999) include:
distributed and diverse users; reliance on the
Internet platform with accompanying
technologies, standards and tools; reliance on
hypermedia for linkage mechanisms; and the
existence of common interface(s) in the form of
Web browsers. While authors may present WIS
characteristics somewhat differently, t...

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