The platform shapes the message: How website design affects abstraction and valence of online consumer reviews

Goele Aerts*, Tim Smits, Peeter W.J. Verlegh

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Online consumer reviews provide relevant information about products and services for consumers. In today's networked age, the online consumer review platform market is hyper-competitive. These platforms can easily change different design characteristics to get more reviewers and to nudge reviewers to deliver higher quality reviews. This study explored the relation between online consumer review platforms' design characteristics and the reviewers' construal level. A psycholinguistic coding scheme was used to assess which social and physical design characteristics impact the language abstraction in accompanying online consumer reviews. To this end, we content analyzed reviews of services and products posted on eight different online consumer review platforms (N = 400). This resulted in a number of key design characteristics (e.g., reviewer identification, reviewer status, order of instructions and length instructions) that led to a decrease in language abstraction used in online consumer reviews. Moreover, results showed that language abstraction mediated the relationship between the four design characteristics and valence. The findings and their broader theoretical, methodological and practical implications are discussed. Online consumer review platforms could capitalize on our findings in adaptive design choices.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)104-112
Number of pages9
JournalDecision Support Systems
Early online date16 Oct 2017
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2017


  • Construal level theory
  • Content analysis
  • Design characteristics
  • Language abstraction
  • Online consumer review platform
  • Valence


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