Study: Web site's appearance matters

Posted by: IceMyst

Study: Web site's appearance matters - 08/15/05 11:53 AM

BOSTON, Massachusetts (AP) -- It's no secret that men and women tend to spend their time on the Internet quite differently.

But British researchers suggest it's not just a Web site's subject or function that determines whether it will draw more men or women. The appearance of the site also might play a subtle role.

In a recent study at Glamorgan University Business School in Wales, test subjects rated the personal Web pages of 60 people for usability and aesthetics.

Not surprisingly, male subjects tended to assign higher ratings to pages designed by men, and females preferred sites made by women. But the researchers said they gleaned important tidbits by looking more closely at the ratings.

Women seemed to like pages with more color in the background and typeface. Women also favored informal rather than posed pictures.

Men responded better to dark colors and straight, horizontal lines across a page. They also were more pleased by a three-dimensional look and images of "self-propelling" rather than stationary objects.

With those standards in mind, the researchers checked out the Web sites for 32 British universities and determined that 94 percent had a "masculine orientation." Two percent showed a female-favored arrangement.

Gloria Moss, a Glamorgan research fellow, said the project should be instructive for organizations that aim for wide audiences. The research -- which was repeated in France and Poland to rule out British cultural bias -- is being published in European journals on consumer behavior and marketing.

So should Web sites consider having two faces, one for male users and another for female visitors? Moss said more research is needed.

"At the very least," she said, "we think there ought to be a combination of aesthetics."

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