Department of Marketing

The Shifting Range of Optimal Web Site Complexity

Web designers and providers are keenly interested in determining the ideal range of Web site complexity to facilitate user–Web site interactions. Previous empirical findings have sparked a lively debate about whether Web site complexity inhibits or enhances user responses toward the Web site. This paper develops a theoretical framework that posits that complexity effects shift along a sequence of evaluation criteria depending on the overall intensity and type of Web site complexity. The first experimental study confirms the suggested interaction effect of the overall degree of complexity and the sequence of evaluation criteria: the optimum is lower for upstream criteria (e.g., ease of navigation) and higher for downstream criteria (e.g., attitude toward the Web site). The second experiment distinguishes two dimensions of complexity (structural vs. visual) that evoke the antipodal effects underlying the shift in the optimal range of complexity. The paper also outlines avenues for further research and implications for marketing practitioners.

Mai, R.; Hoffmann, S.; Schwarz, U.; Niemand, T.; Seidel, J. (2014). The Shifting Range of Optimal Web Site Complexity. Journal of Interactive Marketing. (forthcoming)