People make judgements in fractions of a second. It can take just one tenth of a second to make a judgement about another person. So it’s not surprising to learn that the exact same principles apply to your website.
The moment someone clicks on, or navigates to, your website they begin forming an opinion about your website and by extension your business. This starts with the amount of time it takes for your homepage to load and this is then quickly followed by a series of judgements based solely on the visual design of your website.
It takes about 50 milliseconds (ms) (that’s 0.05 seconds) for users to form an opinion about your website that determines whether they’ll stay or leave
This number comes from specific studies. In the first study, participants twice rated the visual appeal of website homepages presented for 500 ms each. In an additional follow-up study, they reduced the exposure time to 50 ms. So that’s just one-twentieth of a second for you to make a positive impression on your visitors.
Google produced their own study in 2012 looking at ‘the role of visual complexity...regarding first impression of websites…’ The study showed that websites which featured simple visuals and were highly archetypical (whether they met a visitor's expectations for a certain category of websites), were considered to be more appealing than those which were visually cluttered and deviated from expected norms.
Translation - People don’t like to be overwhelmed with too much visual information at once and they expect that an e-commerce website will follow different structural norms than a portfolio website.
So, if you want to make a good first impression with your website then it’s important to prioritise clear and simple visual design whilst also looking at and understanding design trends within your business sector. Unconventional layouts do pose a risk, particularly if your business isn’t creatively focused (in which case highlighting your ability to think outside the box may be a key selling point).
One of the reasons bounce rate is such a popular metric with search engines such as Google, is that it essentially tracks your websites first impressions. Bounce rate is defined as - the percentage of visitors to a particular website who navigate away from the site after viewing only one page.
So if your websites’ homepage has a high bounce rate (anything over 70% is considered poor) then it likely points to one of two issues. First is that you’re ranking for the wrong search terms, so people are visiting your website and then realising you don’t provide them with the information they are looking for, or it could indicate that the visual design of your website isn’t meeting user expectations and needs a bit of a rethink.
In a British study of trust factors for health care websites, they found 94% of all feedback given was design related and only 6% was related to the actual content. In fact, poor interface design was associated with rapid rejection and mistrust of a website. When participants did not like an aspect of the design, the whole website was rarely explored beyond the homepage.
Again this serves to underline the importance of creating a strong visual impression from the start. Your website needs to be designed in such a way that it captures the attention of your visitors and encourages them to explore further.
First impressions matter when it comes to website performance and visual design is a huge aspect of this. That’s why we take the time to understand visual norms within different business sectors and create intuitive and simple to use designs, so that our clients’ websites meet their customers' expectations.