Knowledge transfer in website design
: exploring the processes and benefits of design collaboration for non-creative Micros

  • Nicola Rathbone

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis explores the interaction between Micros (<10 employees) from non-creative sectors and website designers ("Creatives") that occurred when creating a website of a higher order than a basic template site. The research used Straussian Grounded Theory Method with a longitudinal design, in order to identify what knowledge transferred to the Micros during the collaboration, how it transferred, what factors affected the transfer and outcomes of the transfer including behavioural additionality. To identify whether the research could be extended beyond this, five other design areas were also examined, as well as five Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) engaged in website and branding projects.

The findings were that, at the start of the design process, many Micros could not articulate their customer knowledge, and had poor marketing and visual language skills, knowledge core to web design, enabling targeted communication to customers through images. Despite these gaps, most Micros still tried to lead the process. To overcome this disjoint, the majority of the designers used a knowledge transfer strategy termed in this thesis as ‘Bi-Modal Knowledge Transfer’, where the Creative was aware of the transfer but the Micro was unaware, both for drawing out customer knowledge from the Micro and for transferring visual language skills to the Micro. Two models were developed to represent this process.

Two models were also created to map changes in the knowledge landscapes of customer knowledge and visual language – the Knowledge Placement Model and the Visual Language Scale. The Knowledge Placement model was used to map the placement of customer knowledge within the consciousness, extending the known Automatic-Unconscious -Conscious model, adding two more locations – Peripheral Consciousness and Occasional Consciousness. Peripheral Consciousness is where potential knowledge is held, but not used. Occasional Consciousness is where potential knowledge is held but used only for specific tasks. The Visual Language Scale was created to measure visual language ability from visually responsive, where the participant only responds personally to visual symbols, to visually multi-lingual, where the participant can use visual symbols to communicate with multiple thought-worlds.

With successful Bi-Modal Knowledge Transfer, the outcome included not only an effective website but also changes in the knowledge landscape for the Micros and ongoing behavioural changes, especially in marketing. These effects were not seen in the other design projects, and only in two of the SME projects. The key factors for this difference between SMEs and Micros appeared to be an expectation of knowledge by the Creatives and failure by the SMEs to transfer knowledge within the company.
Date of Award7 Oct 2014
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorJohn Edwards (Supervisor), Judith W Scully (Supervisor) & Mark Hart (Supervisor)


  • micro
  • creative
  • knowledge transfer
  • tacit knowledge
  • grounded theory

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