I originally asked this question at Graphic Design StackExchange about evaluating the aesthetics of a visual design, but since then found a really interesting study that I thought I should share with the UX designers here as well.

I saw this paper that goes into some detail about the study of website design appeal which I think some people might find interesting. It points out some general trends between different demographics that are worth noting:

  • females liked colorful websites more, and colorless websites less, than males.
  • both genders reached their peak appeal at a similar low to moderate complexity level, but females disliked simple websites more.
  • adults aged 41 years and above liked websites with a higher colorfulness and complexity than younger age groups.
  • negative correlation between education level and colorfulness, as well as between education level and complexity. Independent of age, highly educated users prefer less complex and less colorful websites than others.
  • a user’s geographical location is an additional factor influencing appeal.

I'd definitely like to know what people think about the research design and the findings, and whether it is similar to their instinct and experience with website content and visual design.

  • Are you asking us our opinion of the research? If so, I think we'd need a link to said research. My main gut-reaction beef would be 'colorful' is both a vague term as well as so dependent on context that said general findings are rather useless.
    – DA01
    Commented Jun 17, 2014 at 4:40
  • Sorry, I added the missing link to the 'paper'.
    – Michael Lai
    Commented Jun 17, 2014 at 4:50
  • 1
    Hmm...well, I'm not a harvard researcher, so likely not qualified to provide a proper answer, but in a cursory look at the research, I think my context comment still stands. For example, one of the web pages they measured was Typographica. What the general population thinks of that page is really irrelevant. All that matters is what people highly interested in type thinks. So, my uneducated conclusion: your sex and nationality likely aren't the primary factors a designer should be considering when coming up with a visual design for a site.
    – DA01
    Commented Jun 17, 2014 at 5:01

1 Answer 1


Tastes change according to gender, age and other factors? I am shocked! Shocked I tell you!

I think it's possibly a legit study. Where it falls short is in addressing the audience factor. Depending on the site, a darker minimalist background will be well liked despite age or gender. In academia for example, the site could be BUTT ugly and barely usable, but if it gives professors access to research data that they really are interested in or a place to talk about their research efforts, they will love it.

In the end, it's a game of delivering the best content and user experience. Design helps, but if your site looks great but is unusable or lacks in content, you failed. Focus first and foremost on the purpose of the site and hire a designer to handle the visuals. Just make sure that the designer fully understands the audience of the site and its purpose. The best way for that to happen is to bring him (or her) to as many of the early meetings as possible and let him (or her) ask questions.

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