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.

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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.

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