September 10, 2016

New warning to Web Designers: 200 milliseconds is enough to make it or brake it

In 2006 a group of Canadian researchers (Lindgaard, Fernandes, Dudek, and Brown) published an article in the Business & Information Technology Journal called Attention web designers: You have 50 milliseconds to make a good first impression*. In this study the researchers tested whether a very short exposure (50 milliseconds or 1/20 of a second ) is enough to create a quality perception about a web site that is consistent with the quality perception about the site if people examine the same web site for a longer time. They found indeed that 50 milliseconds are enough for internet users to form a positive or negative impression about a web site.

I thought this is a good example to use in order make clear to my students of the Master Advanced Topics in Digital Marketing today how important is the web site design for the quality perception of people about web sites and how short time is needed in order to form an opinion about a site’s aesthetic quality.

I started my lecture today with a short experiment where all present students took part: I presented them 2 web sites (that in my view could be examples of good and bad design) on the screen. They were exposed to a screenshot of each web site twice, the first time for 200 milliseconds (it was not possible to make a 50 milliseconds exposure in this setting) and the second time for 10 seconds which is close to the average time that Internet users look to new sites when browsing the web searching for something online before deciding to stay in the site or move on.
Forty-seven students took part in the experiment and although it is not a really scientific one the results confirm the findings of the Lindgaard study from 10 years ago: The consistency of quality perception between the very short and the long exposure is impressive. In the case of the “nice” web site 78% of the participants said that they liked in after the short exposure (200 milliseconds) versus 93% who liked the site after a more thorough examination during the 10 second exposure. In the case of the “not nice” web site the results were even more impressive: 100% did not like the site in the short exposure and 98% also did not like it after the second long exposure.
Can this mean that bad designed web sites have a stronger negative effect on us than the good designed web sites if we are exposed to them online? This is possible but what is sure is that the statement of the Canadian colleagues in their article 10 years ago is still valid. 

There can be maybe more conclusions from our not scientific test but maybe it will be a good idea to replicate the Canadian study to get a good impression of the effect of web design on quality perceptions today when Internet users are much more experienced and sophisticated than 10 years ago.
In the picture you can see the results of the test, Web site A is the "nice" and Web site B is the "not nice" one.

*Lindgaard, G., G. Fernandes, C. Dudek, and J. Brown. 2006. Attention web designers: You have 50 milliseconds to make a good first impression. Business & Information Technology 25 (2): 115–126.