Academic journal article Journal of the Association for Information Systems

Effects of Animation on Attentional Resources of Online Consumers

Academic journal article Journal of the Association for Information Systems

Effects of Animation on Attentional Resources of Online Consumers

Article excerpt

1Introduction

In 2016, the Internet population reached 3.3 billion (Internet Live Stats, 2016). As the Internet becomes a mass medium with a huge online audience, the design of Internet portals and websites is critical in helping arouse and capture online consumers' attention. One area that particularly needs online consumers' attention is online advertisements, which is the primary source of revenue for many websites. There was an estimated US$49.5 billion spent on online advertising alone in 2014 (PricewaterhouseCoopers, 2015). Animation represents one technology that websites commonly use to attract online consumers' attention, though it also attracts much controversy. Web animation refers to motion of any kind on websites (Zhang, 2000). In the early stages of website development, primarily banner ads used animation. However, many researchers have questioned animation's effectiveness in attracting attention or generating click-through and describe the phenomena as "banner blindness" (i.e., online consumers ignore animated banner ads as if they don't see it at all) (Benway & Lane, 1998; Burke, Hornof, Nilsen, & Gorman, 2005; Dreze & Hussherr, 2003). Even with all the criticisms, our survey of Alexa top 100 global websites shows that about 35 percent of them still use some sort of animation on their websites, and the percentage increases to 81.3 percent if we only look at shopping websites. The newer generation of animation in our survey tends to be more subtle (i.e., non-intrusive) as compared to their earlier applications, and we have started seeing animation being applied to other content (such as titles and pictures of products) than to the banner ads.

Due to the practical significance and the extensive use of animation technologies by websites, researchers in different fields, including IS (e.g., Hong, Thong, & Tam, 2007; Jiang, Lim, & Sun, 2009; Lai, Kuan, Hui, & Liu, 2009; Sun, Lim, Peng, Jiang, & Chen, 2008; Zhang, 2000, 2005; Zorn, Olaru, Veheim, Zhao, & Murphy, 2012), human-computer interaction (e.g., Bayles, 2002; Burke et al., 2005; Hamborg, Bruns, Ollermann, & Kaspar, 2012; Lee, Ahn, & Park, 2015), marketing (e.g., Baltas, 2003; Cho, 2003; Lohtia, Donthu, & Hershberger, 2003; Phillips & Lee ,2005; Sundar & Kim, 2005; Yoo & Kim, 2005), and communications (e.g., Diao & Sundar, 2004; Li & Bukovac, 1999) became interested in this phenomenon. However, while these prior studies have contributed to our understanding of Web animation's effects, we still have much to learn.

First, prior studies (e.g., Diaper & Waelend, 2000; Hong et al., 2007) have mostly focused on how animation affects the time individuals stay on webpages or the time they take to complete online tasks instead of how long they spend specifically on animated items. One can attribute this focus to the scarcity of eye-tracking data. In any case, these prior studies have produced inconsistent findings. For instance, Hong et al. (2007) found that animation increased the time individuals stayed on webpages regardless of whether they searched for a target item or simply browsed without such an item in mind. However, other studies (Burke et al., 2005; Diaper & Waelend, 2000) have found no significant relationship between animation and the time individuals stay on webpages or take to complete online tasks.

Second, prior research has mainly focused on animation's effect on the attention individuals pay to animated items and ignored its effects on the remaining webpage content. One can attribute this focus to the fact that early studies on animation focused only on animated ads (e.g., Benway & Lane, 1998; Lohtia et al., 2003). In the context of e-commerce websites, we need to investigate whether online consumers pay attention to both animated and non-animated items, including other products that the websites offer.

Third, prior studies (e.g., Hong, Thong, & Tam, 2004a; Yoo, Kim, & Stout, 2004) have based their hypotheses about animation's effects on the assumption that individuals have a fixed amount of attentional resources. …

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