Conference date and location: 24-26 October, 2011, Dundee, Scotland
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The Interplay Between Web Aesthetics and Accessibility

Grace Mbipom and Simon Harper

Abstract

Visual aesthetics enhances user experience in the context of the World Wide Web (Web). Accordingly, many studies report positive relationships between Web aesthetics and facets of user experience like usability and credibility, but does this hold for accessibility also? This paper describes an empirical investigation towards this end. The aesthetic judgements of 30 sighted Web users were elicited to understand what types of Web design come across as being visually pleasing. Participants judged 50 homepages based on Lavie and Tractinsky’s classical and expressive Web aesthetic dimensions. A cross-section of the homepages were then manually audited for accessibility compliance by 11 Web accessibility experts who used a heuristic evaluation technique known as the Barrier Walkthrough (BW) method to check for accessibility barriers that could affect people with visual impairments. Web pages judged on the classical dimension as being visually clean showed significant correlations with accessibility, suggesting that visual cleanness may be a suitable proxy measure for accessibility as far as people with visual impairments are concerned. Expressive designs and other aesthetic dimensions showed no such correlation, however, demonstrating that an expressive or aesthetically pleasing Web design is not a barrier to accessibility.

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