Investigating the Importance of Website Color Contrast in E- and M-Commerce

Investigating the Importance of Website Color Contrast in E- and M-Commerce

Jean-Eric Pelet (IDRAC Business School of Management, Lyon, France & LEMNA, IAE-IEMN, Nantes University, France)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 10
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5888-2.ch226

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While research on the use of contrasting colors to improve the online shopping experience is limited, paradoxically contrast and its use in e-commerce and mobile commerce (m-commerce) websites appear to play an important role in shaping consumer behavior. The efficient use of contrast seems to contribute to an increase of the potential target market. Contrast enhances the memorization of information (Hall & Hanna, 2003), and increases the intention to purchase (Pelet & Papadopoulou, 2010, 2012). The use of contrast also presents considerable advantages in terms of usability overall and is especially helpful to visually impaired people (Hill & Scharff, 1997). Color blind men - 8% of all men according to the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, (2006) - could better see a site’s content when it is built with contrasting tones (Lanthony, 2005). Therefore, contrast may stimulate online consumers from developing a purchase intention to the act of purchasing.

These findings show the value to further study the use of contrast in e-commerce and m-commerce websites. The need for such studies is all the more urgent when considering that prior research focused mostly on color, without taking contrast into account. This gap has done little to advance our current knowledge. The use of color only as a variable in research studies does not provide enough actionable information about e and m-commerce websites for several reasons:

  • Research comparing cold and hot colors such as blue and yellow hues provide limited results, and do not reflect the whole spectrum of hues that users are able to identify (see Ettis, 2008 for example);

  • Research comparing chromatic versus achromatic colors also provide limited results, since achromatic colors are not as much appreciated as chromatic ones during online shopping (see Pelet & Papadopoulou, 2012). Chromatic, or achromatic, colors should be compared independently of each other, each with its own particularities, rather than simply comparing chromatic with achromatic colors. Comparing this way has the potential to provide information that would be useful from a managerial and academic point of view;

  • Research dealing with the hue, brightness and saturation levels of the foreground and background colors of the interface does not provide results that managers and web designers can easily and quickly implement when attempting to improve the readability and legibility of information of website interface (see Pelet & Papadopoulou, 2012; Conway et al., 2010);

  • Research focusing on colors does not consider the needs of almost 8% of the male population suffering from color deficiencies (Howard Hughes Medical Institute, 2006), to be able to read the information;

  • Finally, research focusing on colors does not take into account the elderly population and their reading difficulties. This growing population has a greater need for a better contrast between the foreground and background colors.

In the very near future, as website design experiences a high growth rate, the colored contrast selection may therefore play an important role, and address the issues we have presented. This work aims to contribute to the on-going discussion related to contrast by providing a thorough literature review of the role that contrast plays in the design of an e-commerce/m-commerce website. The paper concludes with a discussion of theoretical and practical insights for the use of contrast in studies involving color as well as in the design of e-commerce/m-commerce websites.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Contrast: Contrast is the difference in luminance and/or color that makes an object (or its representation in an image or display) distinguishable. In visual perception of the real world, contrast is determined by the difference in the color and brightness of the object and other objects within the same field of view. Because the human visual system is more sensitive to contrast than absolute luminance, we can perceive the world similarly regardless of the huge changes in illumination over the day or from place to place. The maximum contrast of an image is the contrast ratio or dynamic range. Finally, contrast is the perceived difference in colors that are in close proximity to each other. Using contrast effectively not only differentiates a design from others, it is the essential ingredient that makes content accessible to every viewer.

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