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Baby Boomers, the generation born between 1946 and 1964, and Generation Y, born in 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, in particular because 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 homepages. 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 differing 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 Generation Y. In addition, Baby Boomers reported a significantly higher tolerance for having more web components on a page. These results suggest that Generation Y users, as opposed to Baby Boomers, will be more likely 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. 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 websites.





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