Ethos in E-Health: From Informational to Interactive Websites

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



The proliferation of medical information online, without physicians or peer reviewers as gatekeepers, has made e-health an important focus for credibility research. Web 2.0, enabling lay users to contribute content, has complicated patients' challenge of deciding who to trust. To help inspire trust, an e-health website must convey a credible ethos in its homepage and other pages that constitute a user's first impression of a site. This chapter compares the visual and textual ethos strategies of three major e-health sites that represent a continuum from informational to interactive: a government site, a commercial site, and a patient social networking site. The findings reveal a variety of features, such as scientific imagery, privacy seals, and video of patient stories, that can ultimately contribute to an ethos based in expertise and/or in community. This study has implications for the design and evaluation of trustworthy e-health communication.

Publication Title

Establishing and Evaluating Digital Ethos and Online Credibility