Although many web pages consist of blocks of text surrounded by graphics, there is a lack of valid empirical research to aid the design of this type of page [D. Diaper, P. Waelend, Interact. Comput. 13 (2000) 163]. In particular little is known about the influence of animations on interaction with web pages. Proportion, in particular the Golden Section, is known to be a key determinant of aesthetic quality of objects and aesthetics have recently been identified as a powerful factor in the quality of human-computer interaction [N. Tractinsky, A.S. Katz, D. Ikar, Interact. Comput. 13 (2000) 127]. The current study aimed to establish the relative strength of the effects of graphical display and screen ratio of content and navigation areas in web pages, using an information retrieval task and a split-plot experimental research design. Results demonstrated the effect of screen ratio, but a lack of an effect of graphical display on task performance and two subjective outcome measures. However, there was an effect of graphical display on perceived distraction, with animated display leading to more distraction than static display, t(64) = 2.33. Results are discussed in terms of processes of perception and attention and recommendations for web page design are given.