Reinecke receives Google Award for user appeal and engagement web design tool

Katharina Reinecke

If you made your website a little more colorful, what would happen? Would it increase appeal for older or younger users? Would adding greater amounts of text appeal more to users from Russia or Chile?

Previous research by Assistant Professor Katharina Reinecke helped determine a website’s optimal appeal based on colorfulness and complexity level, given a user’s country, age, gender, and education. Now, Reinecke is pursuing a project to develop a backend web-based design tool that will provide designers with the ability to forecast which demographic groups may find their design most appealing.

This project recently received an $81,201 Google Faculty Research Award to support further research and development of the design application.

Using her website, Reinecke has been able to conduct user surveys to determine different demographics preferences, such as users from Chile having stronger negative reactions toward simple, colorless designs than most other nationalities, and that most participants did not mind a low level of visual complexity, but disliked highly complex websites.

Reinecke’s research led to the hypothesis that if web designers were able to present suitable interface designs to a designated demographic, that group would show higher user engagement when visiting the site. The first phase of the study will test this hypothesis through surveys that will ask users to rate website screenshots based on visual appeal and will seek to observe user engagement before users take part in the study. 

By using engagement data, the second phase of the study will seek to develop a tool to predict the effect of a design on user engagement when given a website URL or screenshot. The application will offer detailed feedback and specific design suggestions that could lead to higher appeal and engagement for a specific demographic group.

The research and ensuing application aim to provide fast feedback and predict user reactions in advance, without requiring designers to develop time-consuming and expensive user studies.

Read more about this project and Reinecke’s other research at her website.

Posted September 4, 2014