iBusiness, 2013, 5, 113-117
http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/ib.2013.53014 Published Online September 2013 (http://www.scirp.org/journal/ib) 113
Study on Requirements of Usability of Web Service-Based
Enterprise Information Systems*
Shuangyuan Shi, Shuqin Cai, Zhonghui Li
Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan, China.
Email: shisy@mail.hust.edu.cn, caishuqin@sina.com, lzhspace@gmail.com
Received September 14th, 2011; revised October 9th, 2011; accepted October 20th, 2011
Copyright © 2013 Shuangyuan Shi et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License,
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
With the trend of economic globalization and localization services, employees are distributed in different regions, the
old enterprise information system in closed environment has been difficult to support all the business in enterprises, also
cannot meet the need of information sharing between upstream and downstream enterprises and partners in the supply
chain. The new business model requires companies to have distributed information systems, remote access and other
characteristics. VPN (virtual private network) is high cost and lack of flexibility, Web services-based information sys-
tem can achieve low-cost real-time collection to process and share distributed information, which is the ideal model o f
enterprise information system. However, there is a big gap in current usability between th e Web services and old desk-
top applications. This paper combines the usage patterns, bu siness needs of enterprise information systems and techni-
cal characteristics of Web services, proposes the usability requirements of enterprise information systems based on Web
services from different views of internal users, external customers and strategic partners.
Keywords: Enterprise Development; Usability; Web Services; Enterprise Information System
1. Introduction
Web information systems can overcome the barriers of
time and space, realize the integration of resour ces across
sectors and achieve cross-regional, cross-enterprise in-
formation delivery, resource sharing. Therefore, enter-
prise information systems should be upgraded from the
desktop-based applications to the Web service model.
Under the support of Web 2.0 technology with the core
of Ajax, the network is no longer confined to corporate
information release, and has been widely used to handle
customer transactions under the B2C model [1], it can
better meet the needs of B2B business processing in sup-
ply chain, the exchange of information and resource
sharing between enterprises. With the expanding scale
and increasing functionality of Web information systems,
the users’ dependence on the Web services is growing
and demands on the availability are increasing [2]. The
usability of management information systems based on
Web services has become the key to successful applica-
tion of information systems [3].
The current research of usability is focused on the
guidelines and evaluation of sites. Nielsen proposed five
evaluations in 1993: interactive efficiency, ease of use,
ease of memory, fault tolerance and user satisfaction [1].
After that, Nielsen further put forward ten usability heu-
ristic evaluations [4]. Sherry Y. Chen and Robert D.
Macredie (2005) studied applied heuristic evaluation to
examine the usability of current electronic sh opping, and
this study is applied to develop a set of usability guide-
lines to support the future design of effective interfaces
for electronic shopping [5]. Jonathan W. Palmer studied
the usability of B2C Web sites from five areas: down-
loading delay, navigation settings, interactivity, respon-
siveness, and information content, proposed that site de-
sign should provide users with personalized services, and
can interact with the site and the site should response to
the users timely [6]. Alistair Sutcliffe considered usabil-
ity from the perspective of aesthetics, which will change
the variables attracting users into the operational vari-
ables and do heuristic evaluation of the sites’ usability
and attractiveness [7]. These a re many analyses of the usa -
bility of the portal and library information systems. In the
usability of enterprise information systems, researchers
carried on a survey on enterprise us ers based on usability
*Humanities and Social Science Research Project of the Ministry o
Education of China (Item Number: 11YJA630098).
ational Natural Science Foundation of China: (Item Number:
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. IB
Study on Requirements of Usability of Web Service-Based Enterprise Information Systems
guidelines. Fethi Calisira, Ferah Calisirb [8] and others
studied the usability, effectiveness and ease of use of
user interface to make sure that they affect users’ satis-
faction and influence the factors to ERP/IS systems.
Through surveying the users’ background, the host or-
ganization and the ERP system coverage the respon-
dents’ satisfaction to systematically survey, including th e
six characteristics of interface usability: system capabili-
ties, compatibility, adaptability, user guide, ease of learn-
in g, memor y minimu m load, a lso the effectiveness of eva-
luation and the ease of use. Ritu Agarwal and Viswanath
Venkatesh [3] did a heuristic evaluation to the content,
ease of use, promotional marketing, personalization, emo-
tional factors of corporate Web sites in 4 different sectors
with task-driven approach. In the evaluation, they use an
expert evaluation method and a user survey to analyze
the relative importance of all the content of usability
guide to guide the interaction design of information sys-
tems. Michael Pearson and Ann Pearson used a user sur-
vey to do their research, they think th at ease of use is the
most important factor for users [9]. Fethi Calisir and
Ferah Calisir’s research results show that the effective-
ness and ease of learning are the determinants of end-
user’s satisfaction with the ERP systems, while noting
that a good user guide affects on the usefulness and ease
of learning [8]. Michael Pearson and Ann Pearson be-
lieve that ease of use is the most important factor for us-
er s [9]. But Ritu Agarwal and Viswanath Venkatesh’s sur-
vey show that content is most important to information
system users, ease of use followed, emotional factors will
be subject to the mutual influence of the task and prod-
ucts [3]. As the survey methods and objects differ, the
evaluation of the usability of information system does have
some differences, indicating that the studies on usability
of enterprise information system not only analyze site, or
only study the users of enterprise websites, we need to
analyze it from a more comprehensive perspective, to
guide the design of Enterprises Web Information System.
On the other hand, although the companies understand
the relevant knowledge of usability, in the process of
designing information systems, the degree of related
personnel’s attention to usability and the usability guide
is not ideal. The reasons are: 1) The usability is not sub-
ject to information system owners and developers’ atten-
tion. 2) Neglecting the differences between information
systems and websites, the existing usab ility guide of Web
sites has its limitations, the guiding role to information
systems is not enough. This paper argues that the usabil-
ity of Web information systems is different from general
Websites, the user community is more wide. Enterprise
Web information systems not only need to meet the indi-
vidual customers outside the enterprise and internal em-
ployees, but also investors. Even strategic business part-
ners (suppliers, distributors and other upstream and
downstream enterprises) need to do the informatio n tran-
sfer and business processes between enterprises through
Web information systems. The different users’ usability
requirements of Web information system are different.
The study of its usability should be adjusted accordingly.
This article considers different objectives of different
enterprise information system user groups, analyzes the
requirements for usability, and studies the differences
and contacts in usability between desktop information
systems and Web-based information systems. We want
to provide guidance for the usability design from a more
comprehensive perspective, and to make Web informa-
tion systems meet the needs of all users.
2. The Usability and Content of Web
The usability in International Standard ISO9241-11 is
defined as the effectiveness, efficiency and subjective
satisfaction when a particular user using a particular
product with a specific task to complete in certain cir-
cumstances. For Websites, usability refers to whether the
users are easy to understand how to interact with the sites,
whether they can more easily find the information they
need or complete the task th ey want to do and get an en-
joyable experience from it. Currently, the studies of Web
services usability are mainly abou t websites and person al
computing, Web service usability can be divided into 7
categories, which involves the following issues:
1) Content, including related degree of the information,
the depth and breadth of the content, the multimedia and
timeliness of using the content.
2) Ease of use, including the site’s organizational
structure, as the navigation structure is easy to understand,
the page-level is clear. Operation prompt is clear and
convenient. Contribute to the completion of users’ goals.
3) Interaction, the two-way transmission of informa-
tion between the Web and the browsers, including users’
feedback in usability (Feedback) and sites’ response to
users’ questions (FAQ).
4) Personalized, the ability of meeting the needs of in-
dividual users .
5) Fault tolerance, including error prevention and re-
covery. Warning of error message before the IS release,
as well as removing the impact caused by wrong opera-
6) User’s guide, refer to whether the document can
help the users and easy to find and use for users.
7) Emotional factors and the brand, which is a result of
the usability design’ comprehensive affect, but it is an
important factor of the usability of IS.
3. Usability Requirements of Enterprise Web
Usability is based on three unstable variables: users, us-
ers’ needs (objectives) and users’ background [10]. The
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. IB
Study on Requirements of Usability of Web Service-Based Enterprise Information Systems
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. IB
direct effect of different user groups is the different de-
signs of system. Enterprise information system users can
be divided into external users, internal employees, strate-
gic partners and system owner.
Web information system users with different purposes
have different needs in availab ility, as shown in Table 1.
Facing heterogeneous users, companies need to learn the
behaviors of consumers by investigating and designing
attractive websites [11]. In the personalized service, use
the Web service to provide better service. IS’s internal
users are corporate employees that growing under the
same corporate culture and regulation. In the premise of
meeting the functional requirements, it’s more conducive
to the improvement of employees’ productivity. Investors
will ignore emotiona l factors, looking fo rward to revenue
from this investment. For the strategic partners, informa-
tion transmission capacity between IS can bring the best
interest to them.
3.1. Users outside the Enterprise
There are heterogeneous users with different life and
cultural backgrounds outside the enterprises. What kinds
of corporate Websites features are attractive to new users
and how to maintain old customers by effective function s
are the points of usability research.
Content is first noticed by users, it is the key factor to
attract users in a short period of view. Content usability
include: the relevance of the information, timeliness,
layout, readability, use of media and so on.
Interactivity here refers to the interactive network, the
feature of the direct two-way communication between
the audience and the communicator or the audience and
the audience in a certain extent called network interactiv-
ity, including the timely feedback on user information,
meeting the needs of individual users.
Ease of use. For ordinary users, they are not familiar
with the operating specifications of corporate website, so
designing clear navigation systems, specific language
tips, simple operation and readab le error pages all reflect
the usability of websites.
Personalization, Google has done very well in meeting
the individual needs, as providing users with lots of cus-
tomized services, greatly enhan cing the usab ility and user
experience. In corporate websites, the same should be
done as an important means to attract and micro clients.
3.2. Internal Staff
Network makes enterprises get rid of the restrictions of
time and space, and brings changes to the staff work, for
example, the change of orders. Receiving orders real-
time from manufacturers’ collection to distributed ones
in the network, staff also need to adapt to some new
changes to face information systems in new model. Em-
ployees are the recipients of information systems, they
differ from consumers because consumers can choose
any more attractive websites for different aesthetics. But
there is sufficient evidence that computers in the work-
place tend to increase the number of risk factors, such as
repetitive stress injuries, stress-related physical and
mental disorders, the negative impact of software tech-
nology can not be ignored [10]. Therefore, high usability
design of IS products is particularly important to staff.
In information system, the traditional desktop manage-
ment information system based on C/S (Client/Server)
mode has the advantages as system stability, rapid re-
sponse business processing, data security and so on. B/S
(Browser/Server) mode needn’t to install the terminal
software, and can support remote application and multi-
branch cross-platform application, database security is
also considerably ensured. Especially in supply chain,
such as procurement management, dynamic inventory
management, customer relationship management, mar-
keting systems, etc., the application of B/S mode can
improve the information transmission, information shar-
ing and the efficiency of transaction processing.
The internal staff’s requirements of usability can ex-
clude some of the external and internal factors though
optimizing business processes, training employees to
understand the process of Web information systems op-
erations, which means that major obstacles in employees
operating IS do not exist. Table 2 Compares the advan-
tages and disadvantages between desktop information
systems and Web information systems in usability, hop-
ing to provide guidance for the design in system devel-
opment phase, make the usability of Web information
systems better than desktop system.
The representation of staff’s usability requirements is
mission driven, they are more concerned about the sys-
tem’s ease of use, the degree of difficulty accessing to
information and the transaction efficiency. With the de-
velopment of Ajax, Web-based IS has been greatly en-
Table 1. Web service usability requirements.
Role Demand (target)
Internal staff Information technology to improve efficiency, reduce errors, reduce the burden.
Strategic Partners Effective communication and resource sharing to reduce risk.
System Investors Attract the target groups, service users and maintain good customer relations. Establish a good corporate image.
External users Information search, FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions), requiring simple operation, to meet individual needs.
Study on Requirements of Usability of Web Service-Based Enterprise Information Systems
Table 2. The comparison in usability between desktop application and Web application.
Desktop Information System (C/S) Web Information Systems (B/S)
System Features
usability Advantages Disadvantages Advantages Disadvantages
Loading speed Fast the server in heavy load under
C/S mode, the event delay
Ajax asynchronous transfer
technology to reduce the
burden on the server
Interactive speed is
limited by the server,
network bandwidth
and Links Clear navigation Only global navigation,
no choices in links, is
difficult to switch
Multi-link options, to
provide global navigation,
local navigation, contextual
navigation, secondary
Irreversible process
undo problem
Page Structure Jump page frequently,
visual fatigue, and only
one active interface
Multi-interface can be
achieved simultaneously,
switch freely
Operability Strong operational
Poor user experience,
data editing, keyboard
operability need to
be improved
Ease of
Page refresh Fast, without delay Refresh overall, low
efficiency, lead to
form Information loss
Memo ability No memo ability Strong memo ability
with prompts
Verify the
information before
sending Verify the information
before sending
Error recovery Error message,
error rollback Error screen, explain the
reasons for the error and
prompt solutions.
FAQ/Feedback With online help
can achieve real-time
feedback, and respond
quickly under network
Content Content is stable The new information
transfer delay Richer, information updates,
released in a timely manner
Difficult to achieve
personalized Personalized settings
hanced in usability. Asynchronous transfer technology
reduced the burden of the server and user s’ waiting time,
and improved the user experience. They make Web-
based information system achieve the same effect as the
desktop system.
3.3. Strategic Partners
Under supply chain environment, the information will
inevitably be shared between enterprises, and JIT re-
quires enterprises to keep delivering information timely
and effectively. In the eyes of strategic business partners,
IS standards, timely and effectively information transfer
are important indicators reflecting the usability. There-
fore, the users will concern about the quality and effec-
tiveness of the content. Here, we put forward several
1) Use common industry terms and abbreviations in IS,
help reduce barriers to information exchange, avoid am-
2) Provide effective interfaces, even the parties are
using inconsistent data specification, can realize the
automatic data entry and storage.
3) Strictly control the permissions, make users under-
stand the security of system.
3.4. System Investors
System investors are the shareholders of enterprises, as
investors are more concerned about the interest generated
by capital. Putting the realization of management func-
tions aside, IS usability will br ing what kind of contribu-
tion to corporate earnings. Web information systems’
contribution to the business benefits is reflected in the
usability advantage of the advocacy role in the enterprise
network compared with traditional desktop information
system. As rational investors emotional factors have little
effect on the usability, they are not satisfied with the ba-
sic functions of IS, and they also care about the role of IS
to promote the corporate brand and potential business
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. IB
Study on Requirements of Usability of Web Service-Based Enterprise Information Systems 117
gains obtained from it [3]. Web is not ju st attraction, it is
their own best advertisement, and should be able to de-
liver the brand culture to the users effectively in seconds
and result in resonance.
4. Summary
An information system is defined as an organization,
users achieve their goals by interacting with the IS. High
usability brings pleasure to general users, makes em-
ployees work smoothly and enables investors to obtain
the satisfying potential benefits. On the basis of the
scholars’ studies about the usability guide and usability
evaluation, this article starts from the desired goal of u ser
groups, and IS usability o f different models is compared,
but still lack the results of data supporting analysis from
enterprises. Overall, this article provides comprehensive
assist in usability design from multiple perspectives for
usability experts and developers in the life cycle of sys-
tems development, and can meet the usability needs of
all users and lay the foundation for usability evaluation
model in the next step.
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