Last Updated on September 29, 2020.
Studies have shown that Internet users make up their minds about the quality of a website in just a 20th of a second of viewing a webpage!
Scientific studies have shown us that:-
- It takes users less than 50 milliseconds to decide if they like a website
- If your visitors like your website, they will believe it works better because it’s attractive.
- People will decide whether your website is trustworthy based on its appearance.
- Users will be more forgiving of a website’s faults if it made a good first impression.
The power of attractiveness: If users like your website, they will believe it works better than comparable sites simply because it’s attractive.
“I must be right!”
People like to be right, so they will continue to use a website that made a good first impression, as this helps to ‘prove’ to themselves that they made a good initial decision. Think about it. Whether their first impression was right or wrong, people will continue to behave as if they were right.
People make emotional, instinctive and intuitive judgements
Salespeople have long known that the vast majority of people make emotional rather than rational decisions when buying something. The same is often true of our judgements about websites – we are not as rational as we’d like to think.
How long does it take to make a first impression?
According to a study by Canadian researcher Gitte Lindgaard of Carleton University [1.], it takes users less than to decide if they like a website. This was a surprising result for the researcher and her colleagues who believed it would take at least 10 times longer for users to form an opinion.
Do users trust your website?
Today’s Internet users quickly form a judgement of a website for trustworthiness.
B.J.Fogg [2.] who conducted extensive studies into web credibility at Standford University said:-
… people do judge a Web site by how it looks. That’s the first test of the Web site. And if it doesn’t look credible or it doesn’t look like what they expect it to be, they go elsewhere. It doesn’t get a second test. And it’s not so different from other things in life. It’s the way we judge automobiles and politicians.” B.J.Fogg
This was an extensive study involving 2,684 “average people” who rated the credibility of websites in ten content areas.
How to build trust
See 10 Tips to build Website Credibility based on guidelines from Stanford University.
If you fail to make a good website first impression
“Unless the first impression is favorable, visitors will be out of your site before they even know that you might be offering more than your competitors,” Dr Lindgaard said.
If you fail to make a good first impression:-
- Your visitors will exit immediately without a second click
- You have just wasted all your efforts in search engine optimization, marketing and advertising campaigns – because you have just lost your visitor
- All the great content, all the clever design, all the good functionality and all the best usability in the world is of NO USE, because your visitors are not hanging around to see it.
If it looks good it must BE good
It’s called the Halo Effect, and in short it means if a website is attractive, your users will believe it works better than less attractive websites.
Researchers Gitte Lindgaard and her team at Carleton University found their study results demonstrated what is known to psychologists as the “halo effect”: the first impression of a website creates a cognitive bias in the user that affects their long-term opinion of the website.
If the user thinks the website looks good, the positive first impression translates to other areas of the site, like its content. People like to be right, so they will continue to use a website that made a good first impression, as this helps to ‘prove’ to themselves that they made a good initial decision.
Making better first impressions
Keep in mind that many of your visitors will not be landing on your homepage – their search query may lead them to any of the subpages within your site. So ALL your pages need to make a good first impression! When making improvements to your webpages to make a better first impression, you should take into account:-
- Your audience groups, their age-groups, tastes, preferences and expectations
- The required tone, look and feel of your website
- The impact of color and images, and the aesthetics of your website
- How to build trust
- User-centric design
- User-centric content
- Writing good ‘copy’ (promotional wording)
How do you measure the impact of first impressions?
1. Conduct a user test
One method to assess the first impressions your website makes is to conduct a user test.
You will need to find some users who are representative of your audience groups and observe their reactions when they first see your website. This can be done informally and inexpensively by showing some users a printed image of your webpage, and asking for their feedback. See Very Simple Test Plan.
2. Get an expert review
Another method is to hire a usability analyst to comment on his or her first impressions of your website, to assess the likely impact of your landing pages on your target audience groups, and to compare it with that of your main competitors.
3. Monitor your bounce-rate
You can also take the measure of first impressions by looking at your website traffic statistic called the “bounce rate”. This can be found in your Google Analytics stats.
Your bounce-rate is a measure of how many visitors are taking one look at the web-page they land on, then exiting your site without clicking to view another page.
If a large proportion of your visitors are taking one quick look at your website then promptly exiting, it means you have wasted your investment in getting them to your website, and you have wasted the opportunity inherent in their visit — to convert them into a customer (or member, or loyal reader, or whatever your business goal is).
Please be aware that, on some websites where people spend a good amount of time on a single page then exit the website, the length of time is not measured by Google, and the visit is called a bounce because no other pages were visited. The bounce rate then becomes an inappropriate measure of the visitor’s interaction with the website. There are other web analytic tools that do take into account how long a person stays on a page, and therefore give a more accurate bounce rate. One example is Clicky.
- The study by Canadian researcher Gitte Lindgaard of Carleton University was published in the March-April 2006 issue of the journal Behaviour and Information Technology.
- A study by the Stanford Web Credibility Project, How Do People Evaluate a Web Site’s Credibility? Results from a Large Study, was published in 2002. The study invited 2,684 “average people” to rate the credibility of websites in ten content areas. The online project details have now been archived but still contain valuable details – see http://captology.stanford.edu/archived-projects/stanford-web-credibility-project.html