Web Aesthetics and Usability: An Empirical Study of the Effects of White Space

Web Aesthetics and Usability: An Empirical Study of the Effects of White Space

Constantinos K. Coursaris (Michigan State University, USA) and Konstantinos Kripintris (SapientNitro, USA)
Copyright: © 2012 |Pages: 19
DOI: 10.4018/jebr.2012010103
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Abstract

Usability has been an essential component of the Web User Experience (UX) and a focal research topic. In recent years, the penetration of interactive technologies in all aspects of everyday life challenges the way UX is understood and designed. The past decade, Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) scholars have been continuously attempting to introduce and explore new and non-traditional factors in the UX arena, such as aesthetics, emotions, affect, and trust. This study contributes to the field by exploring the relationship between aesthetics and UX; specifically the impact of the classical design element of white space on the perceived attractiveness and perceived usability of an e-commerce website. A between-subject research design involves the manipulation a website’s white space. Three different versions were constructed using 25, 50 and 75% of the white space, respectively. Findings offer support for the relationship between aesthetics and the perceived usability of a website. The study results suggest that the usability of a website is impacted negatively when white space increases over 50%. Practitioners should consider that in the context of eCommerce Web design, reduction of content and shrinking of visual elements, in favor of white space, is likely to negatively impact the usability of a website.
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Literature Review

Aesthetics in Human-Computer Interaction

The importance of aesthetics and their potential impact on usability have been under investigation. Huh et al. (2007) highlight the growing need of moving beyond usability and integrate aesthetics into the HCI research agenda. Recent HCI research calls for a balance between usability and aesthetic considerations (Coursaris & Kim, 2011; Lavie & Tractinsky, 2004; Huh et al., 2007; Coursaris et al., 2008; Coursaris & Kim, 2007; Coursaris & Kim, 2006). Thus far, a set of findings offers initial support for a relationship between aesthetics and usability (Coursaris et al. 2008; Tractinsky, 1997; Lavie & Tractinsky, 2004; Huh et al., 2007; Quinn & Tran, 2010; Moshagen & Thielschc, 2010; Li & Yeh, 2010). The first empirical results in this field came from Kurosu and Kashimura (1995), who were the first to study the relationship between interface aesthetics and usability (Tractinksy, 1997). They found an unexpectedly robust relationship between Automatic Teller Machine (ATM) user interface aesthetics and perceived usability. Tractinsky et al. (1997) expanded on Kurosu and Kashimura’s findings by proving empirically that the relationship between aesthetics and perceived usability was still present beyond initial impressions even in a different cultural context. Nevertheless, context still appears to be an influencing factor. In a study conducted in Taiwan, Li and Yeh (2010) found strong correlations between aesthetics and perceived usefulness, and between aesthetics and perceived ease of use. They notice a significant difference in their findings compared with the findings of Cyr et al. (2006) who in a similar study, conducted in Canada, did not find a significant connection between aesthetics and utilitarian factors. It becomes apparent that the relationship between aesthetics and usability continues to be complex. Diefenbach and Hassenzahl (2009) found that users appreciate beauty and tend to use more attractive environments. However when users were to justify a choice between an attractive and usable artifact, most decided in favor of the usable one.

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