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You’ve got 50 milliseconds to wow me

How strong is your website’s immediate appeal? According to a Carleton University study published earlier this year in the academic journal Behaviour & Information Technology, web designers have only 50 milliseconds to make a good first impression.

In less than the blink of an eye, your internet users have already formed an opinion about your website and by extension, your company. Participants in three studies were first asked to rate a series of web pages according to their aesthetic appeal after viewing them for 50 milliseconds, and were then asked to examine each site more carefully and provide a new rating. Confirming the old saying that a first impression is often a lasting one, the researchers found no significant difference between the two ratings. This means that in that first 50 milliseconds, your audience has already sussed you out.

While I’m sure you already knew how important first impressions are, you might not have suspected that your window for making that first impression a good one could be so brief. I would have guessed closer to 2 seconds, personally. But how much weight does this first impression really carry? The HOTlab at Carleton has this in the works, along with studies to determine what effect the site’s first impression has on choosing a site or buying from one, and cues for producing a positive user response. Personal preference seems to be the tick in their side… so what does this say to you?

Know your audience.

Know what they’re attracted to, what they enjoy doing in their spare time, how they shop, and what they look for in a vendor. This knowledge is invaluable for integration into your design plan, and if your designer isn’t asking questions about your audience, you should run for the hills. The whole point of corporate design is to make your company look good to the right people. And you need to make sure that in those first 50 milliseconds, you are making the best possible first impression on your target market.

The article abstract can be found at

Sage Media is an international corporate design firm based in Ottawa, Ontario.

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