Does Visual Appeal Matter? Effects of Web Survey Aesthetics on Survey Quality

  • Taj Alexander Mahon-Haft Washington State University Vancouver
  • Don A. Dillman Washington State University
Keywords: aesthetics, web survey, screen design, emotional design, visceral reactions


Due to recent scholarly attention to visual design, much is known about the effects that specific design features have on web surveys, but little attention has been paid to the effects of overall screen design. Applying Norman's (2004) emotional design concepts to web survey design, we propose and test hypotheses related to potential detrimental impacts of poor screen aesthetics. To do so, we compare data collected from two versions of the same Student Experience Survey, an experimental design representing poor aesthetics and a control design representing good emotional design. By triggering negative visceral responses and, thus, emotional reactions, the experimental design is predicted to reduce data quality along four avenues: respondent cooperation, substantive response patterns, respondent commitment, and subjective survey experience. Sixteen of 30 total comparisons show reduced data quality on the experimental forms, and all avenues to quality data show some impact. These findings suggest that screen design aesthetics and emotional reactions can impact data quality, independent of survey content. However, the inconsistent results according to some indicators suggest the need for further research on screen design effects to hone our understanding.

Author Biographies

Taj Alexander Mahon-Haft, Washington State University Vancouver
ph.d. candidate, Department of Sociology
Don A. Dillman, Washington State University
Regents Professor and Thomas S. Foley Distinguished Professor, Departments of Sociology and Rural Sociology