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An Empirical Investigation of Color Temperature and Gender Effects on Web Aesthetics

Constantinos K. Coursaris, Sarah J. Sweirenga, and Ethan Watrall

Journal of Usability Studies, Volume 3, Issue 3, May 2008, pp. 103-117

Article Contents


The findings of the present study support and extend prior research regarding the effect of color combinations on aesthetics (Brady & Philips, 2003; Papachristos et al., 2005). First, color temperature variations on Web site designs appeared to impact both sets of aesthetic dimensions (i.e., classical and expressive). Second, the split-complementary color schemes that utilized a cool primary color (blue) for the top or global part of the page and then used either another cool color (medium blue) or a warm color (orange) for the secondary page components provided the color balance that users found most aesthetically pleasing. In contrast, the site that combined both a warm primary color (red) and a warm secondary color (orange) was the least aesthetically pleasing. The current results suggest that designers need to carefully consider color choice as the combinations will convey information about the quality of the site that may not be intended.

Furthermore, while there was limited literature regarding the hypothesis that classical aesthetics directly impact expressive aesthetics, this study offers strong support for this relationship. A significant implication to management arises: by ensuring Web site designs adhere to fundamental design principles and guidelines, thus satisfying more objective aesthetic dimensions, such favorable impressions will also influence perceptions of more affective aesthetic dimensions (e.g., originality, creativity). Consequently, this is a research area that warrants further investigation. Therefore, we can extend Tractinsky's et al. (2000) suggestion that "what is beautiful is usable" to argue that "what is orderly is beautiful and in turn usable" bearing in mind that context of use is the overriding factor that influences perceptions of order and beauty.

While other research has found gender effects in several computer-related contexts (Cyr & Bonanni, 2005; Simon, 2001), the current study did not indicate that gender impacted perceptions of Web site aesthetics. One plausible explanation for this observation is that women tend to employ more exhaustive information processing strategies than men do, which means that gender differences may have been masked by the lack of detailed content in the prototype Web site; the content was not as extensive as users expected from a travel Web site (Meyers-Levy & Maheswaran, 1991; Simon, 2001). We plan to expand and hone the Web site content to create a more realistic level of detail on each page, as well as have more content pages, which would enable users to better assess perceived usability within the context of the multiple color schemes. Additionally, future research efforts will seek to broaden the focus to assess the influence of culture on perceptions of Web site aesthetics through a global multi-country study.

In closing, this study aimed at extending the limited body of research (DeAngeli et. al, 2006; Lavie & Tractinsky, 2004; Tarasewich, 2001) in the area of Web site aesthetics and our understanding of how the manipulation of design elements (here, color temperature and color scheme) may impact users' perceptions of a Web site's aesthetics.

Recommendations for Future Research and Conceptual Development

The next step on this research agenda is to study the effects of Web aesthetics on perceived usability. The authors will specifically seek to identify the relative importance of classical versus expressive aesthetics on the perceived efficiency and effectiveness of a Web site's design. The second step will be to engage in a multi-country, cross-cultural study that will attempt to gain support for the generalizability of these relationships beyond a U.S. audience.

At a higher level, this research stream will expand on currently limited insight on the relationship between aesthetics and usability, i.e., between hedonic and utilitarian effects consequent of Web site design choices.


The authors would like to thank the reviewers for their insightful feedback that was critical in producing the final version of this article.

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