First Impressions

For years usability studies and server log file analysis have tended to indicate that home page web designers have just a few seconds to create a favorable initial impression on the user. New evidence contained in a soon to be published paper suggests that a few seconds may be a gross over estimate.

Gitte Lindgaard and her colleagues from the Human Oriented Technology Lab (HOTLab) at Carleton University have conducted studies to ascertain how quickly people form an opinion about webpage visual appeal. The paper is to be published in the March-April 2006 issue of Behaviour & Information Technology.

Three studies were conducted in which subjects were presented with brief glimpses of previously classified home pages and asked to rate them for visual appeal. The results were highly correlated with assessments made over much longer periods of time and indicated that visual appeal can be assessed within 50 milliseconds. This is an astonishingly short period of time given that a normal human blink lasts 200–300 milliseconds.

Gitte Lindgaard and her colleagues have given the paper a rather apposite title “Attention web designers: You have 50 milliseconds to make a good first impression!”

In practice this means fast downloading home pages, limiting the graphics and providing information in the simplest way possible. If you are explaining, you are losing.

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