Journal of Management Information Systems

Volume 33 Number 1 2016 pp. 229-259

The Determinants and Impacts of Aesthetics in Users’ First Interaction with Websites

Jiang, Zhenhui (Jack), Wang, Weiquan, Tan, Bernard CY, and Yu, Jie


Though aesthetics is generally acknowledged as an important aspect of website design, extant information systems (IS) research on web user experience has rarely studied what affects website aesthetics and how aesthetics influences users’ perceptions of the website and the organization behind the website. In this paper, we synthesize prior literature from different academic domains and propose users’ perceived quality of five design elements (i.e., unity, complexity, intensity, novelty, and interactivity) as determinants of website aesthetics. We further theorize the effects of aesthetics on users’ attitudes toward the website and their perception of the corporate image. Two studies were conducted to test the research model. In Study 1, we adopted a card sorting method and the results provide substantial support to the determinants of website aesthetics. In Study 2, we conducted a survey using ten company portal websites that were unknown to survey respondents. Our analysis further confirms the effects of users’ perceived quality of the five design elements on the perception of website aesthetics. The findings of Study 2 also show that users’ perception of aesthetics has significant impacts on perceived utility and their attitudes toward the website, which further affects the corporate image exhibited via the website. In addition, we find that in users’ first interaction with a website, perceived aesthetics has a larger impact on their attitudes toward the website than perceived utility.

Key words and phrases: corporate image, design complexity, design unity, website aesthetics, web design, website intensity, website interactivity