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Websites: How to Nail a Positive First Impression - 5/17/2016 -

Websites: How to Nail a Positive First Impression

Here are 15 web design stats that will make you rethink everything.

By Victoria Taylo

These days, nearly everything is discovered online. We often get our first impression of a brand through its website, and we form opinions in a matter of 0.05 seconds (about the time it takes to blink.) Yet the importance of these impressions is generally underrated. Research shows that subsequent impressions, no matter how contradictory, do little to compensate for opinions made during the first.

While visitors' website evaluation takes several factors into account (content, usability), it is the siteís visual appearance ó its design ó that determines first impressions. You are competing with billions of other websites to grab visitorsí attention and make them form favorable opinions, so you really can't afford to miss the mark. These 15 web design stats will help ensure you've put your best foot forward.

1. First impressions are 94 percent design related. According to a Kinesis Inc.ís study on user behavior, visual appeal and usability have the largest influence on peopleís first impression of a brand. And these initial impressions can last for years. The good news is that positive first impressions lead to higher user satisfaction later on; but as you might expect, the inverse is also true.

2. 75 percent of users admit to making judgments about a companyís credibility based on its web design. In an age where trust is everything, credibility has become all the more important. This includes the credibility of your associationís brand, its products and services, and everything else you do. How does one establish trust in an online world? Think of your website as an online handshake.

The key things here are design, responsiveness, and quality content. A website lacking in these areas creates a perception that the organization behind it canít be trusted.

3. Having a positive expectation of a product increases the likelihood of having a positive and satisfied experience with it; the inverse is also true. Again, your website is often the first impression of your brand. This impression affects user expectations, and those expectation affect user satisfaction. Only two scenarios can play out here:

Scenario one: A visitor lands on your site, has a great first impression, and therefore positive expectations. This positive expectation increases the likelihood the visitor will convert and that theyíll have a satisfied experience with your product/service. This also means youíre more likely to retain this customer.

Scenario two: A visitor lands on your site, has a bad first impression due to things like bad design, usability, and/or content. Because of this, the user has poor expectations and therefore is less likely to have a satisfied experience with them in the off chance they do convert. At best, thatís a lead lost; at worst, thatís bad word of mouth for your brand.

4, People following directions with text and illustrations do 323 percent better than people following directions without illustrations. This is especially crucial for securing and onboarding new customers. Using both text and illustrations helps brands enhance conversions in two ways: (1) By drawing the visitorís eye to the desired action, and (2) demonstrating how to proceed with the desired action, therefore making it easier to convert.

5. 65 percent of senior marketing executives believe visual assets are core to how their brand story is communicated. These visual assets include photos, videos, graphs, illustrations, infographics, emojis, and more.

Using visuals helps express the essence of the brand, illustrate key marketing messages, and convey company values and product features. Furthermore, content with images get 94 percent more views than content without, and researchers have found that visuals increase people's willingness to read a piece of content by 80 percent.

6. Colors and visuals influence purchase decisions, emotions, and brand recognition. When designing your website, use images, text, arrows, lines, and whitespace to direct visitor attention to your call-to-action buttons. Implement whitespace in tandem with dark colors for optimal appeal. Think carefully about color choice, too, as color is often associated with brands themselves, e.g., when you think red, Coca Cola may come to mind. Thereby the color(s) you choose should accurately reflect the brand (red conveys energy and excitement and makes sense for the soda company). By adhering to web design best practices, your visitors will feel more welcome and inclined to stick around. This directly influences site conversion.

7. Dark colors are better than light colors when it comes to traffic, pageviews, bounce rates, and average time on site. Though the differences are small, dark colors are better than light colors at driving traffic, pageviews, bounce rate, and average time on site. Dark colors perhaps pop more than light ones, and thus, are most successful at grabbing and holding visitorsí attention.

8. Most users scan websites in an F-shape. Bounce rate and time spent are especially important because Google considers them when determining web page quality. Moreover, bounce rates tend to have an inverse relationship with conversion rates. So, the lower your bounce rate on average, the higher your conversions will be.

An eyetracking study by Nielsen Norman Group shows that users tend to scan websites the same way we scan pages of a book or newspaper. They first read in a horizontal movement, usually across the top part of the content. Then they move down the page and read across in a second horizontal movement that typically covers a shorter area than the previous movement. Finally, they scan the content's left side in a vertical movement that is sometimes slow and systematic, resulting in a solid stripe shown on the heatmap, and other times faster and sporadic, creating a spottier heatmap.

Brands and marketers should design and format content in a way that supports this behavior, placing the most important information up top and utilizing subheads and bullet point lists down below that users can easily scan.

9. Design principles such as visual hierarchy and page load speed have a direct influence on conversion. Place your most important content above the fold, but do so without cluttering the page. Social proof, navigation buttons, search bars, signup forms, and social media links all belong above the fold. Use large headings for the most important elements and information on the page.

Speed up load times by combining multiple scripts and stylesheets, using CSS instead of images, background colors, buttons, etc., and avoiding Flash at all times.

10. Nearly half of web users expect a site to load within two seconds or less, and tend to abandon a site that doesnít load within three seconds. In this fast-paced, technology-driven world, people expect speedy access to information. Donít count on folks to wait around because they wonít. Competition is high, and site performance matters. In fact, lengthy page load time directly correlates with high exit rates. This is bad news for conversions since a one-second delay in page response can result in a 7 percent reduction in conversions. For an ecommerce site making $100,000 per day, thatís 2.5 million in lost sales every year!

11. 52 percent of online shoppers stated that quick page loading is important to their site loyalty ó especially for high spenders. Additional findings show that 79 percent of online shoppers who experience a dissatisfying visit are less likely to buy from the same site again. Twenty-seven percent are less likely to buy from the same siteís physical store. Customer retention and brand loyalty are crucial for business. As a matter of fact, the cost of keeping an existing customer is just

10 percent the cost of acquiring a new one.

12. 90 percent of people use multiple screens sequentially in the same day.

Research shows people start on smartphones, advance to PCs, and possibly finish on tablets. They watch TV and search what theyíre seeing, go back to their smartphones, and the process continues.

This means that itís absolutely necessary to have a coordinated web presence across all devices. This includes site design, branding, and overall user experience. Expect that every product and promotion will be touched by mobile.

13. More people access websites on mobile devices than on desktop, but one in four sites has not been mobile optimized. Mobile optimization has to do with

responsive design, a web design technique that responds to the userís behavior and environment based on screen size, platform, and orientation. Since 67 percent of users are more likely to make a mobile purchase on a responsive website than a site thatís not mobile-optimized, itís no longer a question of whether or not to adapt.

14. 48 percent of users say that if they arrive on a business site that isn't working well on mobile, they take it as an indication of the business simply not caring. A poorly functioning mobile site can discredit any brand, before the user even gets to their content.

15. 62 percent of companies with websites designed specifically for mobile had increased sales. Websites designed for mobile devices give brands yet another platform to access and market to consumers. Other sources show that 70 percent of mobile searches lead to action on mobile-friendly websites within one hour. If the site is not mobile optimized, 40 percent of users will choose another result.


Web design is everything to first impressions. And first impressions are not to be underestimated. See that your site:

  • Is visually appealing and loaded with quality content
  • Features high quality and contextually relevant images
  • Uses text and illustrations in tandem
  • Is formatted to support user scanning behaviors
  • Employs visual and font hierarchy
  • Features smart color that accurately portrays the brand
  • Loads fast and provides a mobile-optimized experience

Victoria Taylo is content marketing manager at Readz, which offers technology for marketers who want to create customizable, results-oriented content experiences. She has a background in marketing and PR, and is a graduate of Boston University's College of Communication. Reprinted with permission.


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