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Help with health information on the web

Chern Li Liew (School of Information Management, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand)

The Electronic Library

ISSN: 0264-0473

Article publication date: 4 October 2011




In recent years, there has been a proliferation of online resources that offer health information. However, there is no guarantee that all intended users will be able to use these resources effectively. This study seeks to investigate the types of help features that are available through existing internet‐based health information resources that support the use of these resources.


An investigation of 30 such resources was carried out with the objective of answering these questions. The paper intends to answer the following research questions: What types of help features are available in existing online health information resources? How can their formats and presentation styles be characterised based on existing interface design guidelines from the Human‐Computer Interaction (HCI) community? Were there any differences in the manner in which different internet‐based health information providers presented evidence‐based information?


The study discovered a range of help features being employed in these resources, ranging from step‐by‐step guides outlining the use of site features to the inclusion of links to resources that cater to user groups, who speak a language other than English. Further to this, the study also found that resources that were consumer‐based and commercially‐funded predominantly favoured the use of implicit help features to improve user access, whilst government‐funded libraries were more likely to make use of explicit help features to aid users in the use of specific features.


This study provides insightful information regarding current status and problems of the help features in existing online health information resources.



Li Liew, C. (2011), "Help with health information on the web", The Electronic Library, Vol. 29 No. 5, pp. 621-636.



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Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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