Online Viewing and Aesthetic Preferences of Generation Y and the Baby Boom Generation: Testing User Web Site Experience Through Eye Tracking

Soussan Djamasbi, Marisa Siegel, Jeanine Skorinko, and Tom Tullis
International Journal of Electronic Commerce,
Volume 15 Number 4, Summer 2011, pp. 121.

Abstract: The baby boom generation, born from 1946 to 1964, and Generation Y, born from 1977 to 1990, form two important groups of online users in terms of numbers and economic impact. Understanding their Web preferences is of great importance to companies, particularly because the literature suggests that these generations may differ in how they view Web pages and in what they find visually pleasing. To this end, a laboratory experiment examined users’ reactions to a set of home pages. Users’ reactions were captured using self-report measures and eye tracking, which recorded fixations. Overall, both generations reported similar aesthetic preferences, and both generations preferred pages that had images and little text. However, the two generations also displayed different online viewing behavior and preferences. For instance, eye-tracking data revealed that baby boomers had significantly more fixations and that their fixations covered more of the pages (e.g., headers, main body, sidebars) than those of Generation Yers. In addition, baby boomers reported a significantly higher tolerance for having more Web components on a page. These results suggest that Generation Yers will be more likely than baby boomers to miss key information if a Web page fails to present that information using a limited number of clear focal points that are located above the fold of the page. The relationship observed between viewing behavior and visual appeal supports the importance of aesthetics in usability research. Moreover, this research suggests that companies targeting either generation could benefit from being mindful of the visual appeal of their Web site.

Key Words and Phrases: Aesthetic preference, baby boomers, eye tracking, fixation, Generation Y, Millennials, user experience, viewing pattern, visual appeal, Web design.