Vital first impressions

Paul Boag

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.