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Our Blog for Tips, Tricks, and News: Politics + Technology

Bad Design: Crash & Burn in 50 milliseconds

Good design is critical.

We all know that, but do you know how fast that "good" vs. "bad" judgment gets made? About 50 milliseconds -- about one-twentieth of a second.

The BBC is reporting today on a Canadian study published in Behaviour and Information Technology:

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

The researchers found that the speedily formed conclusions closely tallied with opinions of the websites that had been made after much longer periods of examination.

Yeah, but does that snap decision make a difference over the longer term? You betcha:

The researchers also believe that these quickly-formed first impressions last because of what is known to psychologists as the "halo effect". If people believe a website looks good, then this positive quality will spread to other areas, such as the website's content.

Since people like to be right, they will continue to use the website that made a good first impression, as this will further confirm that their initial decision was a good one.

The human brain is hard-wired to make snap decisions on instantaneous visual data -- after all, we evolved to avoid lions, tigers, and bears in the wild. Today, we might just be using it to assess the professionalism of a campaign or the authenticity of a candidate. But it's just as fast.

The same reason you dress up to impress a prospective spouse or a prospective boss is the same reason you should have a clean, well-designed website. If you can't get past the first impression, the rest doesn't matter very much.

Previously on P&T:
Design: Reaching the "youth" audience
Research: You are not your target audience