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Color Matters: Color as Trustworthiness Cue in Web Sites

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Abstract:

Purpose: In today's increasingly technological world, the first impression of an orgnization is often based on a user's judgment of the corporate Web site's trustworthiness. This study investigates whether color as a Web site element can serve as a trustworthiness cue. In addition, the context of these Web sites was taken into account as research indicates that emotions associated with colors might differ between contexts.

Method: An experimental study was conducted in which first impressions of trustworthiness of Web sites were measured in relation with the chosen color scheme. More than 200 participants evaluated eight finance, eight legal, and eight medical Web sites on perceived trustworthiness. Each respondent was presented with an identical Web site that only differed on the used color scheme. Four different color schemes (red, blue, green, and black) were put to the test.

Result: The findings indicate that when the same Web site is presented using different color schemes, the Web sites are considered to have different levels of trustworthiness. Color has a statistically significant but limited effect, compared with all other reasons people can have to trust a Web site. Overall, the blue color scheme was perceived as most trustworthy and black as least trustworthy. The effect of the context is statistically significant, but very small.

Conclusion: The color-trustworthiness relationship has never been demonstrated in the context of Web sites. This study supports the common sense idea with scientific evidence by showing that color matters in a user's judgment of a Web site's trustworthiness. Web site designers can increase the trustworthiness of a Web site by using an appropriate color scheme.

Keywords: COLOR; CREDIBILITY; TRUST; TRUSTWORTHINESS; WEB SITE

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2011-05-01

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  • Technical Communication, the Society's journal, publishes articles about the practical application of technical communication theory and serves as a common arena for discussion by practitioners. Technical Communication includes both quantitative and qualitative research while showcasing the work of some of the field's most noteworthy writers. Among its most popular features are the helpful book reviews. Technical Communication is published quarterly and is free with membership.
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