Cutshall, Robert C.
The majority of Web site design literature mainly concentrates on the technical and functional aspects of Web site design. There is a definite lack of literature, in the IS field, that concentrates on the visual and aesthetic aspects of Web design. Preliminary research into the relationship between visual design and successful electronic commerce Web sites was conducted. The emphasis of this research was to answer the following three questions. What role do visual design elements play in the success of electronic commerce Web sites? What role do visual design principles play in the success of electronic commerce Web sites? What role do the typographic variables of visual design play in the success of electronic commerce Web sites? Forty-three undergraduate students enrolled in an introductory level MIS course used a Likert-style survey instrument to evaluate aesthetic aspects of 501 electronic commerce Web pages. The instrument employed a taxonomy of visual design that focused on three dimensions: design elements, design principles, and typography. The data collected were correlated against Internet usage success metrics data provided by Nielsen/NetRatings. Results indicate that 22 of the 135 tested relationships were statistically significant. Positive relationships existed between four different aesthetic dimensions and one single success measure. The other 18 significant relationships were negatively correlated. The visual design elements of space, color as hue, and value were negatively correlated with three of the success measures. The visual design principles of contrast, emphasis radiated through contrast, and contrast shape were negatively correlated with three of the success measures. Finally, the typographic variables of placement and type size were both negatively correlated with two of the success measures. This research provides support to the importance of visual design theory in Web site design. This preliminary research should be viewed as a realization of the need for Web sites to be designed with both visual design theory and usability in mind.
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