Vital first impressions

A recent report featured on the BBC website seems to indicate that good design is key to the way users assess a site.

How will you judge if your new site is more successful than your old one? What do you want your site to achieve and how are you going to evaluate its success? This week Paul and Marcus discuss “success criteria”. What are they and how do you decide upon them?

The story on the BBC website leads with:

Internet users make up their minds about the quality of a website in the blink of an eye, a study shows.

It then goes on to explain that the study presented web pages to a group of users for only a 20th of a second. Users were then asked to rate the website for aesthetic appeal. Interestingly the conclusion they reached in a mere 20th of a second closely tallied with opinions of the websites that were made after much longer periods of examination.

However, what really interested me was that this first 20th of a second left a last impression. The BBC explains that:

If people believe a website looks good, then this positive quality will spread to other areas, such as the website’s content.

Although such a study is not without its weaknesses, it does help to demonstrate the role of design within web development. Before a user can process content or usability, it is design that helps form those vital first impressions.

  • Marcus

    Hi Paul
    I think this is true for some users, not all. I fit into this category – nice pretty graphics and I’m hooked :) – others don’t.
    There are many people out there who just don’t see the fantastic design of, say, a coke can. It’s just a tin that says coke on it.
    One method of giving up smoking is to wrap your ‘sexy’ pack of ciggies with a piece of paper and a rubber band thereby hiding all that expensive branding. And, apparently, it works for some.

  • Brian

    I agree. My wife is famous for this. If she doesn’t like the look of a website she will quickly find another that looks better. She will buy from e-commerce sites that charge more jsut because they look good.
    I think the order of importance in my opinion is:

    1 – aesthetic appeal

    2 – organization

    3 – content

    If you don’t have the first two people will never find the third.
    Marcus: Don’t worry about it… you have the rest of the year to find a way to quit!