Sensation seeking and aesthetic preferences in the context of a supermarket e-commerce website

Website aesthetics determine the image of a website, thus playing a significant role in forming visitors’ first impressions, a website’s trustworthiness and the associated brand identity. Nevertheless, although appealing aesthetics are indeed desirable, studies have shown that it is one’s personality that ultimately determines what one finds aesthetically pleasing in websites.

This study explored how sensation seeking affects website aesthetic preferences, with sensation seeking being defined by Zuckerman as one’s predisposition to seek “varied, novel and complex experiences, and the willingness to take physical, social, legal and financial risks for the sake of such experience”. An online questionnaire was designed to gather data by assessing user perceptions of a number of website aesthetic properties in a supermarket e-commerce setting, while also gauging the sensation-seeking level of 334 participants, 85% of whom were Maltese. These properties included: navigation styles, colour diversity, and artistic styles used in images.

The results indicate that the effect of sensation seeking on website aesthetic preferences tends to be significantly influenced by age group and gender. One finding is that younger users (18 to 34 years) tended to prefer a less conventional side menu, while older users (35+) favoured a conventional mega-menu for navigation purposes. Findings also suggest that attitudes towards the use of abstract artwork in websites were positively related to sensation-seeking among all male participants (r = .180) but negatively related among females within the 18-24 years age group (r = -.189). A sample-wide negative correlation was identified between sensation seeking and attitudes towards websites, with very low colour diversity (r = -.098) ‒ which was stronger among females (r = -.149). Furthermore, it was established that the BSSS (Brief Sensation Seeking Scale) was reliable when administered to a Maltese population (α = .776).

This research is believed to be the first study to investigate the effect of sensation seeking on navigation menu preferences. It has also highlighted the significance of age and gender when exploring to what extent one’s personality would influence website perception.

Figure 1. Designs assessing preferences on artwork type
Figure 2. Designs assessing colourfulness preferences

Student: Aurora Attard
Course: B.Sc. IT (Hons.) Software Development
Supervisor: Dr Colin Layfield
Co-Supervisor: Prof. Gordon Sammut