University of Twente Student Theses


Communicating harmony versus conflict in an online environment : the effects of portraits & shape on website user response

Bellmann, Christine (2010) Communicating harmony versus conflict in an online environment : the effects of portraits & shape on website user response.

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Abstract:This paper addresses the impact of communicating harmony and conflict through portraits and shape on the evaluation and response of a website. Based on research it was hypothized that it is possible to communicate a symbolic meaning of harmony or conflict via design factors that in turn influence the users response. Furthermore it is argued that both design properties affect the website user individually but also in interplay. In addition, the influence of social presence and self-construal is considered. To test the predictions, two experimental studies were conducted, whereas the second research strives for a clarification of the results found in the first study. Students were asked to evaluate an informational website about study choices that was either created as harmonic or as conflict oriented. The present paper makes significant contribution to the potential of communicating symbolic meanings by portraits and the shape on a website. It further stresses the importance to understand the different working of both design cues, especially with respect to an enhancement of the websites usability. Using harmonic portraits on a website turned out to be the strongest individual predictor of an enhancement of the user’s attitude and perception of benevolence. These effects proved to be mediated by the perception of social presence. With respect to usability, an angular shape affects the usability of the website in the strongest way. In addition, the current research gives an insight into the interplay of both design factors primarily in terms of building up the users feeling of benevolence and the perception of professionalism in an online environment. Results from both studies provide support for the importance of design factors within the online environment and suggest an impact of personal differences, like self-construal, on a websites evaluation and response. Additionally, this paper gives impulse to further research and practical implications.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:77 psychology
Programme:Psychology MSc (66604)
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