…a study by Paul van Schaik at the University of Teesside, UK, has found that the golden ratio does not benefit all designs. Websites with golden proportions can be harder to extract information from, he says.
Van Schaik put 98 students into five groups and asked them all to answer questions using information on five separate websites. He recorded the time it took participants to answer each question, together with the number of web pages they looked at to do so.
All the sites had a navigation bar with links to other sections of the site on the left of the page and a frame for content on the right, but the sizes of these two sections differed for each group. The pages of one group were divided according to the golden ratio, while the websites of the other four groups gave over less space to the navigation bar.
Those in the golden group answered the questions slowest, taking an average of 15.8 seconds to answer each question – 3.5 seconds longer than the fastest group. The golden ratio group also took 2 seconds longer than the next slowest group and had to visit more pages to find the information required.
“It has been suggested since antiquity that the ratio is aesthetically pleasing,” says Van Schaik. “But we found that not only is it not liked in web pages, it is also less efficient in terms of accuracy and speed.”