Visual website aesthetics : the relationship between dimensions of visual website aesthetics, website trust and consumers' intention to visit the website
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- Master Thesis 
A review of previous research about visual aesthetics revealed inconsistencies and contradicting views. Due to the important role of visual aesthetics in the online environment, a more thorough understanding of the construct was beneficial. Therefore, the first aim of this thesis was to develop a new structural framework of the dimensions of visual website aesthetics based on a review of previous research findings and theories. This conceptualisation process revealed that visual aesthetics can be explained by six dimensions, each of which are defined, named, pre-tested and studied. The six dimensions were named affective appeal, appropriate appeal, functional appeal, harmonic appeal, original appeal and personal appeal. Affective appeal refers to consumers’ emotions towards the website and their mood at the time of interaction. Appropriate appeal refers to how a website relates to other websites in the same category. A website has functional appeal when consumers easily can navigate and use the website, and harmonic appeal refers to the websites overall balance, attractiveness, clean design and symmetry. Original appeal relates to the novelty of a website and personal appeal refers to a website’s degree of customisation and personalisation, as well as the level of two-way-communication and interaction. The pre-test of the dimensions revealed a possibility for intercorrelation among them, likely caused by the use of different termination in previous research. However, due to a small sample and a simple study design, the pre-test was not considered definite enough to overwrite previous validated research results. The dimensions were subject to further testing through an online survey. An analysis of the results using structural equation modelling (SEM) confirmed that some of the defined dimensions were highly correlated. Based on this intercorrelation, two of the categories, appropriate appeal and functional appel, were removed from the sample. This does not necessarily imply that the composition of the dimensions should be moderated, as each are firmly grounded on findings from previous research. However, it does imply that there are other variables that could influence the importance of visual aesthetics, for instance the type of service the website provides or the amount of competitors the website has. Identifying these variables can provide further insight into visual website aesthetics. Visual aesthetics was hypothesised to influence both the consumers’ trust in the website and their intention to return to the website. In addition, trust was hypothesised to positively influence consumers’ intentions to return, thereby suggesting that trust mediates the relationship between visual aesthetics and intention. The second aim of this thesis was therefore to explore these relationships, in an effort to highlight the effect that visual aesthetics has on the online environment. The survey results revealed that visual aesthetics does have a positive effect on consumers’ intention to revisit, as affective appeal was found to have an effect on intention. In addition, visual aesthetics was found to have an effect on trust, as both functional appeal and personal appeal had a significant effect on the trusting beliefs. However, no significant relationships were found between trust in the website and intention to revisit. Still, these findings confirm the impact visual aesthetics can have on vital aspects of the online environment, thereby highlighting it as an important focus area for managers and decision makers.