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Credibility judgments in web page design – a brief review

  • “Iuliu Hatieganu” University of Medicine and Pharmacy, Cluj-Napoca, Romania


Today, more than ever, knowledge that interfaces appearance analysis is a crucial point in human-computer interaction field has been accepted. As nowadays virtually anyone can publish information on the web, the credibility role has grown increasingly important in relation to the web-based content. Areas like trust, credibility, and behavior, doubled by overall impression and user expectation are today in the spotlight of research compared to the last period, when other pragmatic areas such as usability and utility were considered. Credibility has been discussed as a theoretical construct in the field of communication in the past decades and revealed that people tend to evaluate the credibility of communication primarily by the communicator’s expertise. Other factors involved in the content communication process are trustworthiness and dynamism as well as various other criteria but to a lower extent. In this brief review, factors like web page aesthetics, browsing experiences and user experience are considered.
Journal of Medicine and Life Vol. 9, Issue 2, April-June 2016, pp.115-119
Credibility judgments in web page design a brief review
Selejan O*, Muresanu DF* **, Popa L* **, Muresanu-Oloeriu I*, Iudean D****, Buzoianu A***, Suciu S*****
*“RoNeuro” Institute for Neurological Research and Diagnostic, Cluj-Napoca, Romania
**Department of Neurosciences, “Iuliu Hatieganu” University of Medicine and Pharmacy, Cluj-Napoca, Romania
***Department of Clinical Pharmacology and Toxicology, “Iuliu Hatieganu”
University of Medicine and Pharmacy,Cluj-Napoca, Romania
****Faculty of Electrical Engineering, Technical University of Cluj-Napoca, Cluj-Napoca, Romania
******Department of Functional Biosciences, “Iuliu Hatieganu” University of Medicine and Pharmacy, Cluj-Napoca, Romania
Correspondence to: Prof. Dafin F. Muresanu, MD, PhD,
Department of Clinical Neurosciences, “Iuliu Hatieganu” University of Medicine and Pharmacy, Cluj-Napoca,
8 Victor Babeș Street, Code 400012, Cluj-Napoca, Cluj, Romania,
Mobile phone: +40 724353060; Fax: +40 264406845, +40 264597256, Ext. 2116,
Received: January 29th, 2016Accepted: April 18th, 2016
Today, more than ever, knowledge that interfaces appearance analysis is a crucial point in human-computer interaction field has
been accepted. As nowadays virtually anyone can publish information on the web, the credibility role has grown increasingly
important in relation to the web-based content. Areas like trust, credibility, and behavior, doubled by overall impression and user
expectation are today in the spotlight of research compared to the last period, when other pragmatic areas such as usability and
utility were considered. Credibility has been discussed as a theoretical construct in the field of communication in the past decades
and revealed that people tend to evaluate the credibility of communication primarily by the communicator’s expertise. Other factors
involved in the content communication process are trustworthiness and dynamism as well as various other criteria but to a lower
extent. In this brief review, factors like web page aesthetics, browsing experiences and user experience are considered.
Keywords: user credibility, web page aesthetics, visual hierarchy, web page perception
Aesthetics and credibility in web page design
Aesthetics has largely been assessed by means
of a single bipolar item (e.g. uglybeautiful), which reflects
a gut feeling at best but not a profound aesthetic
judgment. However, this simple and intuitive appraisal can
be very useful and has its justification in a quick
assessment of first impressions, as it was demonstrated
by Lindgaard, Fernandes, Dudek, and Brown [1]. The
authors were able to show that the first impression of a
website is formed within 50ms and is highly stable.
Moreover, it can be seen as the most prototypical
aesthetic judgment. This 50ms window is certainly not
enough time for cognitive processes to occur in an
analytical or reflective manner but it showed that ‘‘visual
appeal’’ was the prime determiner of a positive reaction to
a website. This very short time span is aligned with a
result of another study, in which authors were arguing that
80% of the people browsing the web spend just a few
seconds on a site before moving along [2].
Even if there are many best practice guidelines
for aesthetic design, the body of knowledge is still looking
for more solid data about empirically validated user
interface (UI) design factors. It is of utmost importance to
categorize the triggers of the users’ aesthetic responses.
According to Michailidou et al. [3], the ‘‘less is more”
notion, showing that less complex websites are preferred
over more complex ones, was found valid. Robins and
Holmes [4] argued, in the same vein, that when a person
is opening a website, the first impression is probably
made in a few seconds. Based on this first impression,
the user will either continue the browsing or move on to
the next web page, a decision influenced by many factors.
Page aesthetics and user’s judgment about the
site’s credibility is among the factors that may influence
the user to continue its browsing on a web page or go
away. A study performed by Rieh & Danielson [5] showed
that when an identical content is delivered to users using
different levels of aesthetic treatment, the page with a
higher aesthetic treatment was judged as having higher
credibility. The authors coined that terms such as the
“amelioration effect” of visual design and aesthetics on
content credibility an aesthetic treatment, increased the
rating for the same content in 19 out of 21 cases (90%). In
the first few seconds in which a user views a web page,
this effect is already settling in. As depicted before, in a
case of content similarity, a higher aesthetic treatment will
increase perceived credibility. An important aspect to be
mentioned here is that credibility can take different forms
in the eyes of the users. Some of them will perceive
Journal of Medicine and Life Vol. 9, Issue 2, April-June 2016
content quality on a website as a source of credibility
while others can perceive authority as a sign of credibility
in the online environment [6]. A web page logo is also
seen as an authority sign. The term “credibility” is used
here to describe the extent to which users trust the
informational content on a certain website.
Fogg et al. [7] conducted extensive studies on
the phenomenon of web credibility that revealed
surprising results on the extent to which the dynamism of
a website mattered to users. The largest category,
“design and look”, was indicated by 46.1% of the
respondents. The second preferred category was
“information design” of a site and was indicated by 28.5%
of the respondents as a marker that contributed to their
credibility judgments. To summarize, nearly 75% of the
respondents reported making credibility judgments by
content presentation rather than other factors (content’s/
creator’s authority, trustworthiness, reputation, etc.).
The layers of credibility judgments
Norman [8] suggested that credibility judgments
might occur at different levels of perception and criteria,
classified as visceral and cognitive. He divided reactions
to design in three experience levels: visceral, behavioral,
and reflective. Visceral experience in design is an
immediate, powerful reaction to design while the
behavioral level represents the experience during the use
of design. Whereas the visceral design tries to capture the
user’s attention immediately, the behavioral design aims
to keep the user focus on the page through the ease of
use and learning. However, it may represent the fact that
users will transcend the behavioral level and use objects
that do not perform well because of some emotional
attachment to the object. This represents the reflective
level. The design in this area is highly analytic and
cognitive and an attempt to create a better design by
incorporating the experience of users and their knowledge
of goals and objectives of the product or service is made
The ‘‘visceral’’ criterion represents an area in
which a reduced number of studies have been conducted.
Viscerally-based credibility judgments emerge without
conscious analytical cognitive processes. This reaction is
primarily based on highly subjective reactions to stimuli
presented when a user starts browsing a website. In this
train of thoughts, a person’s credibility judgment may be
influenced by a combination of different factors (e.g.
colors, layout, fonts, bulleted lists, tabular data, etc.). The
users will find the task of explaining these judgments
challenging. They usually relate to such factors as
dynamism, trustworthiness (if based on intangible factors
such as first impressions), and sociability.
Anyhow, viscerally influenced criteria are
primarily visual and not cognitive, so the impact of the
visual experience is an action facilitated at the level of the
nervous system and not at the level of brain thought
processes. Gladwell [10] and colleagues summarized the
research on rapid cognition, while Wathan and Burkell
[11] presented a similar notion in their model of the
credibility judgment process. These studies tried to
explain how people can make quick judgments that are
often correct. The authors identified cognitive processes
like ‘‘surface credibility’’ (visceral) and ‘‘message
credibility’’ (cognitive). The latter requires a further
analysis to evaluate more objective criteria (e.g. expertise,
accuracy), while the former addresses appearance issues
that were quickly processed.
If at the visceral level, the design of a website
suggests that the information is not credible, the viewer
might decide to leave the page after a very short period of
time, thus not allowing the content credibility to be
perceived and judged at the cognitive level.
Tractinsky et al. [12] designed two experiments
to replicate and continue Lindgaard’s work. By using
explicit (subjective evaluations) and implicit (response
latency) measures in both experiments, they have
demonstrated that immediate aesthetic impression of web
pages are remarkably consistent. In the first experiment,
the participants evaluated and ranked the attractiveness
of 50 web pages in two phases after two exposures:
500ms and 10 seconds. The ratings of web pages after
the 500ms were strongly correlated with the average
attractiveness ratings after a 10 seconds exposure. The
findings also suggested considerable individual
differences in evaluations and the consistency of those
In the second experiment, the same 500ms
exposure was preferred for 24 of the 50 web pages from
the first experiment. The same marker was evaluated as
in the first study: attractiveness. Subsequently, users
evaluated the design of the web pages on the dimensions
of classical and expressive aesthetics. The results
showed a high correlation between the attractiveness
ratings on both experiments. Also, it seemed that low
marks in attractiveness were mainly associated by
subjects with very low ratings of expressive aesthetics.
Overall, the main conclusion is that aesthetic impressions
of web pages are quickly made and these results provide
direct evidence in support of this premise. Indirectly, these
results also suggested that visual aesthetics play an
important role in the users’ evaluations of the IT artifact
and their attitudes toward the interactive systems.
The model of visual hierarchy
The mind-eye hypothesis implies that people are
usually thinking about what they are looking at [13]. They
do not always totally understand or engage with it, but if
they are looking, they are usually paying attention,
especially when concentrating on a particular task [14].
The mind-eye hypothesis also implies that the
way people look at any given artifact (e.g. web page) is
determined by what they are trying to do with it. In other
Journal of Medicine and Life Vol. 9, Issue 2, April-June 2016
words, the task the user has chosen or been asked to do
determines their looks [13].
As presented by Faraday [15], the viewing
pattern is guided by two distinct cognitive processes:
searching (a process that can be determined by vectors
such as text style, color, size, location and visual
information of components) and scanning (driven by
attributes such as proximity and order of components).
Searching refers to a viewer’s attempt to find a point of
entry into the page while scanning refers to the viewer’s
behavior after finding such an entry point. In this second
phase, the viewer extracts information that is located at
the entry point. As larger items draw more attention than
smaller items, larger objects on a page will be viewed
prior to the smaller ones [16]. People also exhibit a top
down viewing preference. Therefore, items located at the
top of a page will have priority in the visual hierarchy over
other items. The scanning phase of viewing can also be
influenced by items nearby, which are perceived as
related to each other. Placing related information around
an entry point on a web page can facilitate a more
effective scan phase [17].
Interesting findings on reading preferences of
long documents were published by Buscher et al. [18].
This exploratory study analyzed reading regions on a
monitor. The authors have proved that the users’ visual
attention was not evenly distributed on the screen and
that users have individual preferred reading regions when
working with long documents. Vertically, the visual
attention can be approximated by a normal distribution
specified by two parameters: the preferred vertical
reading location and the amount of vertical spreading.
A survey published by Nielsen [19] indicated a
return on the investment as high as 83% in websites in
which users defined their browsing experiences as
positive. More than that, if the page is visually pleasing,
users are more inclined to trust it [20]. In the same vein,
the visual appeal of a page is positively correlated with a
perception of usability [21].
Djamasbi et al. [22] conducted two studies, trying
to confirm the prior mentioned hypotheses, in which they
compared the users’ opinion on two web pages. As a
methodology, they used two prototypes of the same page
to examine if including images of people had an influence
on perceptions of visual appeal and whether a user’s trust
assessment was correlated with the visual appeal rating.
The results showed that the page with images of people
was rated significantly more visually appealing than the
page that included images of logos. These results are
consistent with the social presence theory and suggest
that the inclusion of images can positively affect the
appeal of a homepage. Moreover, the investigator found
that the participants’ visual appeal ratings were found to
be a significant predictor of their credibility rating and that
the people completed tasks significantly faster by using
the page with images of people while maintaining the
accuracy. These results support the literature suggesting
that the beauty of a page may affect people’s trust in it
[23]. Another study conducted by Cry et al. [24] reinforced
these findings: pages that include human faces are
perceived to have a greater degree of social presence.
Nevertheless, Djamasbi’s findings are not in line
with the results published by Lewenstein et al. [25]. In a
study in which users were examined based on the way
they read online news articles, the authors measured their
first three gazes on a page. The results indicated that the
users’ attention was drawn to text over graphics and
photos, and ran against findings from traditional print
media that suggested that users are attracted by photo
elements first.
Gender differences and age in web pages
Starting from the evidence presented by Moss et
al. [26], arguing that men and women exhibit different
preferences in layout and presentation stimuli, Djamasbi
and his colleagues examined possible gender differences
in web preferences by using eye tracking [16]. Literature
provides ample evidence that men and women exhibit
differences in what they perceive as attractive and when
designing websites. Also, men and women tend to show
different preferences in how they create their web pages
regarding several factors [26]. The same study revealed
that men prefer to use darker colors (e.g. black, blue)
compared to women, who prefer lighter colors. Also,
women are more prone to include images in their web
design [26]. In particular, women are more prone to
include images of people in their websites compared to
In a study performed on 30 subjects, Pan et al.
[27] investigated the determinants of web page viewing
behavior by using eye-tracking. They have concluded that
the gender of subjects drives the web page viewing
behavior, the order of web pages viewed and the
interaction between site types and the order of the pages
viewed. Some important results of this study revealed that
males exhibited significantly longer mean fixation
durations than females. Gender differences in perceptual
processing have also been reported by Jones et al. [28].
The gender differences reported in the current study
provided further support for the notion that different
design guidelines might be beneficial to websites who
cater specifically to one gender or the other [27].
Nevertheless, the most interesting finding is the
complex interaction effect of page order and site type, on
the three measurements of ocular behavior, meaning that
the viewers’ eye movement behavior changes over time
even on a single website, and the type of websites
influenced the change in direction and magnitude. This
confirms the previous work of other researchers,
supporting the hypothesis that the individual
Journal of Medicine and Life Vol. 9, Issue 2, April-June 2016
characteristics of the viewer, as well as the stimuli,
contribute to the viewers’ eye movement behavior [29].
In order to close the circle of age and gender,
Djamasbi et al. [16] performed a study in which
Generation Y’s [18-30] web preferences were
investigated. This population segment spends 200 billion
dollars per year and represents a significant market share
per se. Regarding business and practical implications, this
study has proved to deliver important conclusions, and
that is because Generation Y has very solid internet skills
that are averse to irrelevant marketing [30]. In
complementary studies related, authors found out that
Generation Y people like cool graphics, have short
attention span, and do not like to read long boring texts. It
is more likely that this generation particularly enjoys the
presence of images on web pages [30].
The results of this study were in line with the
prior research that showed people under forty like pages
that provide a search feature, include pictures of
celebrities, have little text, and contain a large main
The credibility study is highly multidisciplinary
and it involves some different concepts and approaches,
spanning from information evaluation, content quality,
page aesthetics, and gender preferences, etc. In this brief
review, our work has focused on the cognitive process
involved in the credibility evaluation of a web page, the
content impact on this perception as well as on the
divided preferences between genders.
As depicted by Popa et al. [31], there are several
tools for the exploration of cerebral processes, and we
can mention the following: eye tracking, functional
magnetic resonance imaging, braincomputer interface,
humancomputer interaction, e-learning, and assistive
technology. Hopefully, shortly, the study of credibility will
benefit from this complex array of options hence revealing
new insights in the particular field.
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The World Wide Web has become a ubiquitous information source and communication channel. With such an extensive user population, it is imperative to understand how web users view different web pages. Based on an eye tracking study of 30 subjects on 22 web pages from 11 popular web sites, this research intends to explore the determinants of ocular behavior on a single web page: whether it is determined by individual differences of the subjects, different types of web sites, the order of web pages being viewed, or the task at hand. The results indicate that gender of subjects, the viewing order of a web page, and the interaction between page order and site type influences online ocular behavior. Task instruction did not significantly affect web viewing behavior. Scanpath analysis revealed that the complexity of web page design influences the degree of scanpath variation among different subjects on the same web page. The contributions and limitations of this research, and future research directions are discussed.
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Effective visual design of e-commerce websites enhances website aesthetics and emotional appeal for the user. To gain insight into how Internet users perceive human images as one element of website design, a controlled experiment was conducted using a questionnaire, interviews, and eye-tracking methodology. Three conditions of human images were created including human images with facial features, human images without facial features, anda control condition with no human images. It was expected that human images with facial features would induce a user to perceive the website as more appealing, having warmth or social presence, and as more trustworthy. In turn, higher levels of image appeal and perceived social presence were predicted to result in trust. All expected relationships in the model were supported except no direct relationship was found between the human image conditions and trust. Additional analyses revealed subtle differences in the perception of human images across cultures (Canada, Germany, and Japan). While the general impact of human images seems universal across country groups, based on interview data four concepts emerged-aesthetics, symbolism, affective property, and functional property-with participants from each culture focusing on different concepts as applied to website design. Implications for research and practice are discussed.
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Theory suggests that for an ad with a sexy illustration, the interaction of the sex of the viewer with the sex of the povocatively clothed model will influence that viewer's responses to the ad. Previous research with sexy ads has supported such reasoning, but principally has used women as the sexy models. The authors examined the responses of men and women to cheesecake and beefcake (a sexy male model) and found some expected and some surprising effects. Women reported disproportionately negative attitudes toward cheesecake ads, as hypothesized, but men did not show a parallel response to beefcake. They did have higher recall scores for ads with a nonsexy female model than for cheesecake ads, as expected. Significant results in a direction opposite from that hypothesized showed that women had higher recognition scores for cheesecake than for beefcake ads.
Conference Paper
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Creating a positive user experience is a fundamental element of producing a successful web page. Three important components of user experience are visual appeal, trust, and efficiency. This study extends past research by examining the effect of images of faces on the visual appeal, efficiency, and trustworthiness of a page. Data is collected using both subjective ratings and objective measurements, including eye tracking. Analysis indicates that users find a page that has images of people's faces more appealing than a page that has no images of faces and perform tasks more quickly when there are faces present. Additionally, analysis reveals a strong positive correlation between trusting the informational content of a page and its visual appeal. This research has important implications for theory and practical applications.
Malcolm Gladwell; род. 3 сентября 1963, Хэмпшир) — канадский журналист, поп-социолог. В 2005 году «Time» назвало Малкольма Гладуэлла одним из 100 самых влиятельных людей. Книги и статьи Малкольма часто касаются неожиданных последствий исследований в социальных науках и находят широкое применение в научной работе, в частности в областях социологии, психологии и социальной психологии. Некоторые из его книг занимали первые строки в списке бестселлеров «The New York Times». В 2007 году Малкольм получил первую премию Американской Социологической ассоциации за выдающиеся достижения по отчетам в социальных вопросах. В 2007 году он также получил почетную степень доктора филологии Университета Ватерлоо. Малькольм Гладуелл описывает эксперименты, которые показывают, что человеку с поврежденными эмоциональными центрами крайне трудно принимать решения. Он рассказывает про одного такого пациента, которому было предложено прийти на прием либо во вторник, либо в пятницу. И пациент два часа решал во вторник ему прийти или в пятницу — в столбик выписывал плюсы и минусы, их сравнивал, группировал по разному, всяко переставлял. И в жизни своих домашних он просто убивал вот этим. Если его спрашивали, ты что хочешь: омлет или салат? — это задача минут на сорок. Обычный человек очень просто поступает. Он видит омлет, что-то чувствует и говорит: Хочу! Все. Выбор сделан легко и быстро.
Data from 574 participants were used to assess perceptions of message, site, and sponsor credibility across four genres of websites; to explore the extent and effects of verifying web-based information; and to measure the relative influence of sponsor familiarity and site attributes on perceived credibility.The results show that perceptions of credibility differed, such that news organization websites were rated highest and personal websites lowest, in terms of message, sponsor, and overall site credibility, with e-commerce and special interest sites rated between these, for the most part.The results also indicated that credibility assessments appear to be primarily due to website attributes (e.g. design features, depth of content, site complexity) rather than to familiarity with website sponsors. Finally, there was a negative relationship between self-reported and observed information verification behavior and a positive relationship between self-reported verification and internet/web experience. The findings are used to inform the theoretical development of perceived web credibility.
The World Wide Web doubles in size roughly every 2–3 months and dramatic claims are made about the effectiveness of Web-based commercial efforts. The centrality of non-price mechanisms of differentiation to the perception, enjoyment and ease of use felt using websites is acknowledged but the only statistically rigorous studies of factors such as form and content have been conducted within a universalist paradigm of aesthetics. This paper reports on an interactionist approach to web aesthetics involving an analysis of 60 male- and female-produced websites. The analysis reveals statistically significant differences between the male- and female-produced websites on 13 out of the 23 factors analysed. These differences span issues of navigation as well as linguistic and visual content. The paper argues that the appeal of websites can be maximised if they mirror the needs and interests of their target populations and that websites targeted at male or female dominated markets need to reflect the aesthetic diversity found in the male- and female-produced websites analysed here. It also presents information on the demographics of the IT profession, showing that there is a potential imbalance between the percentage of women involved online and those involved in the IT profession. This suggests that the male domination of the IT profession could be a barrier to the effective mirroring of female Website preferences. Copyright
This article examines the potential theoretical and practical contributions that thin-slice judgments may offer to consumer psychology. We begin by exploring thin-slice judgments in the context of existing consumer information processing research. Then, we discuss the antecedents of thin-slice judgments, the type of processing that may underlie and impact thin-slice judgment formation. Finally, we review the potential consequences of thin-slice judgments and investigate applications within the consumer domain.
Through iterative design and testing, we developed a procedure for conducting online experiments. Using this research method, we conducted two recent studies on Web credibility. The data from the first study suggest that Web banner ads reduce the perceived credibility of a Web page's content. The data from t he second study show that attribution elements—in this case, author photographs—can also affect the credibility of Web content. This research method and our early results have implications for both HCI researchers and Web site designers.