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First impressions are fast

And they count!

Web users make up their minds about the quality of a website in just a 20th of a second of viewing a webpage!

According to Canadian research it takes less than 50 milliseconds to decide if you like a website. A surprising result for lead author Gitte Lindgaard of Carleton University and her colleagues who believed it would take at least 10 times longer to form an opinion.

The study was published in the journal Behaviour and Information Technology.

The Canadian group showed volunteers glimpses of websites, lasting for only 50 milliseconds who then had to rate the websites in terms of their aesthetic appeal.

"My colleagues believed it would be impossible to really see anything in less than 500 milliseconds," explained Dr Lindgaard to the website of the Nature journal, which reported the research.

And first impressions have a lasting impact. The researchers found that swift conclusions closely aligned with opinions of the websites that had been made after much longer periods of examination.

The judgements were being formed almost as quickly as the eye can take in information. Moreover, the researchers believe the study results produce what is known to psychologists as the “halo effect”: the first impression creates an initial bias that drives long-term opinions.

If the user thinks the website looks good, the impression translates to other areas of the site, like its content. Since people like to be right, Lindgaard reasoned, they will continue to use a website that made a good 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.


Attention web designers: You have 50 milliseconds to make a good first impression!