Study: Users Judge Web Sites in the Blink of An Eye

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By: Jay DeFoore

A new study by Canadian researchers indicates that first impressions are especially important to Internet users.

Reuters’ Kamakshi Tandon reports today on recent findings that Web users make aesthetic judgments in one-twentieth of a second, less than half the time it takes to blink.

“It really is just a physiological response,” Gitte Lindgaard told Reuters. “So Web designers have to make sure they’re not offending users visually.

“If the first impression is negative, you’ll probably drive people off.”

The findings have been published in the latest issue of the Behavior and Information Technology journal.

But despite their efforts, the researches apparently could not pin down exactly what gives users a favorable impression of a site.

“When we looked at the Web sites that we tested, there is really nothing there that tells us what leads to dislike or to like,” Lindgaard, a psychology professor at Carleton University in Ottawa, told Reuters.

E&P has been trying — quite unscientifically — on its own to pin down what constitutes good and bad Web design for newspapers and news sites. If you’ve got a minute, check out the E&P’s Web Site Redesign Contest, which has all the details, or the initial site critiques by Jay Small and Jeff Johns.

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