First impressions play a role in whether your visitors engage, leave and/or return to your website. A fair amount of research has offered actionable information regarding what makes for positive first impressions even while a lot remains to be discovered.
What Makes for a Good First Impression on the Web
I do not envy the researchers who are coming up with the controls for studies on first impressions (at least not the competent ones). There are so many variables to account for and so much that would still remain as a wildcard influencing the findings.
That being said a fair amount of research has gone into determining what makes for a visually pleasing website from a variety of distinct research positions. One such study which gets lots of citations is a study on the role of visual complexity and proto-typicality in first impressions of websites. This study found that, “Users prefer websites with low visual complexity and high prototypicality.”
One other highly cited study used eye-tracking and found that the logo, nav menu, search box, main image, content, bottom of website and social media icons were focused on the longest.
A client focused approach to design ought to cover you in terms of giving a good first impressions for your visitors.
The Role of First Impressions in User Experience
First impressions set the tone for subsequent user experience. It should come as no surprise that first impressions of websites are made quickly. And they are important, “Within a fraction of time, people build a first visceral gut ‘feeling’ that helps them to decide whether they are going to stay at this place or continue surfing to other sites“(Link takes you to PDF of Google Study).
Much Remains to be Discovered About First Impressions
Various disciplines have an interest in deciphering all of what is going on in that short period of time a person is forming a first impression. Studies focusing on various aspects of first impressions, like those mentioned above are helpful in gathering actionable information for web design.
Once crucial missing bit of information is how all of the various factors that make a first impression relate to each other. Another is exactly how first impressions interact with overall user experience. While some of this is partially known a more thorough examination could provide additional useful information when attempting to create the most satisfying user experience.