Deepak Prem Subramony
Gutman’s means-end theory, widely used in market research, identifies three levels of abstraction – attributes, consequences, and values – associated with the use of products, representing the process by which physical attributes of products gain personal meaning for users. The primary methodological manifestation of means-end theory is the laddering interview, which it has been claimed generates better insights than other qualitative or quantitative methods. This study asked: Can means-end theory, and its concomitant laddering methodology, be successfully applied in the context of human-computer interaction research, specifically to help understand the relationships between Web sites and their users? The study employed laddering interviews to elicit data concerning Web site attributes, their consequences, and user end-values. This data was duly processed and the results were subsequently appraised. Examination determined that means-end chains do indeed characterize the process by which the physical attributes of Web sites gain personal meaning for their users, thus proving the theory’s applicability.