User judgements of the online world: factors influencing website appeal and user decision-making.
Authors: Bradley, D.
Conference: Bournemouth University, Faculty of Science and TechnologyAbstract:
Websites are an integral part of everyday life but we rarely think about how their visual appeal shapes our responses to them. To understand this relationship, research has outlined a number of visual characteristics that may determine appeal. However, previous studies have often used small stimulus sets or made experimental assumptions about critical website characteristics without careful control, making findings difficult to interpret and generalise. Experiment 1 addressed this through creating a corpus of 480 website stimuli containing normative ratings of key characteristics responsible for website appeal. Subsequent studies employed this corpus, providing stimuli that were well controlled but still represented the wider domain.
Experiment 2 examined the timescale of appeal judgements and the impact of verbal brand framing messages on these judgements. As expected, participants made rapid, reliable, judgements even when given only 500ms. However, exposure to positive brand framing had a negative effect on appeal ratings. A possible explanation is discussed in terms of brand placement prominence on consumer attitudes.
In Experiment 3 participants evaluated the appeal of embedded website advertising in order to examine the impact of visual framing on appeal judgements. Advertisements were deemed more appealing when they appeared on appealing websites, although brand familiarity had a mediating role. Eye movements revealed a complex relationship between website and advertisement appeal and familiarity in determining where participants attended.
In Experiment 4, website appeal judgements were compared between typical participants and participants with autism in order to examine the role of individual differences. Interestingly, despite careful manipulations few differences emerged. However, eye tracking data revealed ASD participants attended to detailed content more than their typical counterparts.
The implications of this work are discussed and a revision to the model of aesthetic judgement (Leder et al., 2004) is proposed in order to account for the current findings. An information-processing model of website evaluations is presented which outlines the processes involved from making initial judgements of appeal through to later, long-term evaluations of a website.