Website design and the making of the first impression
Researchers have been trying to answer human-computer interaction questions since the 1980s. Eye-tracking was also used for the first time in the same decade to answer similar questions.
Eye-tracking is the process of measuring either the point of view or the movement of the eye relative to the human head. Eye-tracking devices are used in optical system research, psychology, psycholinguistics, marketing, etc. as an input device for human-computer interaction and product design.
In the research we will analyse below eye-tracking has been used to stimulate website visibility to assess points where web design can be improved, to identify the emotions that website design is causing to users, and to study the first user-generated impression.
The first impression in psychology
The first impression in psychology is the process in which one person first meets another person and forms a mental image of that person. The image created will vary depending on the observer and the target (person, object, scene, etc.) observed.
The first impression is extremely important and has been used in various fields such as psychology, medicine, marketing, etc.
While creating the first impression, the observer collects information about the target, organizes the information and stores this information in memory in terms of acquiring knowledge about the object. The first impression and knowledge created during it, subconsciously persist and evolve over time and also influence user behavior.
Website design and the first impression
In a study titled 'Eyes don't lie: understanding users' first impressions on website design using eye-tracking', of the Missouri University of Science and Technology, they used eye-tracking to investigate the first impression websites make, depending on how web design is done. The study involved 20 university students.
Specifically, the above research was divided into four parts:
- Finding the exposure time required to make the first impression
- Identify the web design features that determine the first impression
- Searching for users' emotional reactions to web design
- Understanding the relevance between eye movement and first impression
The research was conducted in two phases:
In the first phase, participants were presented with 25 images of universities websites homepage. Participants were on an eye-tracking device and instructed to move on to the next image as soon as they formed an integrated view of each website. They then rated each website according to the emotions left by their first impression.
In the second phase, participants were shown the diagrams by the eye-tracking device and asked to express their feelings.
The survey data were analyzed quantitatively and qualitatively for the extraction of results.
The results showed that it took only 180 milliseconds (180 milliseconds) of exposure to the stimulus to form the first impression. The total time it took to create a complete view of each website was 19.2 seconds on average.
Website design and focusing time
The research also pointed to various problems in the way the web design was done and points of improvement were revealed that could positively influence the first impression.
(The image above was taken from this research and belong to its creator.) This image shows a heat map depicting the points on the webpage where the users were focused. The hotter the color, the longer the focus duration (red long, green short).
In order of priority, the points of interest and the focus time on each point are as follows:
- Main menu: 6.48 sec
- Webpage core: 6.44 sec
- Footer: 6.03 sec
- Social network links: 5.95 sec
- Logo: 5.94 sec
- Search bar: 5.59 sec
- Main image: 5.25 sec
Emotional reactions caused by website design
The research measured the participants' emotional reactions to viewing both the preferred and non-preferred websites.
The results showed that viewing the favorite websites caused more excitement and pleasure than the non-favorite websites.
Accordingly, viewing non-preferred websites caused feelings of calmness and resentment than preferred websites.
The features a correctly designed website should have, as extracted from this research and many more, can be found in our article 'What is the right website design?'