It only takes 50 milliseconds for a user to decide whether they want to continue using a site (Lindgaard, 2006). Many studies have also shown that an appealing website makes a user perceive it as more usable (Kurosu & Kashimura, 1995; Tractinsky et al., 2000; Tuch et al., 2012).
While the e-commerce market continues to grow and emerge, people are online shopping more frequently. Consequently, how visually appealing a website is can be imperative to the success of a business. The present study examined the effect of visual appeal on trust and perceived risk in e-commerce websites.
To investigate this effect, the current study conducted an experiment using an online survey whereby participants were to rate each website on its visual appeal, trustworthiness and perceived risk. The websites for the study were chosen by using a ranking website to check how trustworthy they were (low, medium and high).
There were two phases in the current study. Phase 1 used 20 experts to obtain visual appeal ratings on each website used in the study, using a 7-point Likert scale. Phase 2 acquired a further 69 participants to rate the trustworthiness and perceived risk of the websites. Participants indicated on a 7-point Likert scale how trustworthy they found each website. An adapted questionnaire was used to measure the perceived risk of each website.
Results indicated that the websites with high visual appeal ratings were also rated high on trustworthiness and low on perceived risk. Additionally, the most notable finding was that websites with a very low trust ranking received high visual appeal ratings, and therefore received high trust ratings and low perceived risk ratings. This further reinforces that the visual appeal of a website affects how users perceive the website’s trustworthiness and perceived risk, even when the website itself is not trustworthy. These findings suggest that businesses should consider developing visually appealing websites to establish trust and reduce perceived risk.