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Web users make first impressions of website in less than a second


February 19, 2012 - Washington

It takes web users less than two-tenths of a second to form a first impression on a website, according to a recent eye-tracking research.

But, according to the research conducted at Missouri University of Science and Technology, it takes a little longer - about 2.6 seconds - for a user's eyes to land on that area of a website that most influences their first impression.

The finding could help web designers understand which elements of a website's design are most important for users.

"We know first impressions are very important. As more people use the Internet to search for information, a user's first impressions of a website can determine whether that user forms a favourable or unfavourable view of that organization," said Dr. Hong Sheng, assistant professor of business and information technology at Missouri S 'n' T.

For their research, Sheng and Sirjana Dahal, who received her graduate degree from Missouri S 'n' T last December, enlisted 20 students to view screenshots, or static images, of the main websites from 25 law schools in the U.S.

Using eye-tracking software and an infrared camera in Missouri S 'n' T's Laboratory for Information Technology Evaluation, the researchers monitored students' eye movements as they scanned the web pages.

The researchers then analysed the eye-tracking data to determine how long it took for the students to focus on specific sections of a page - such as the menu, logo, images and social media icons - before they moved on to another section.

Sheng and Dahal found that their subjects spent about 2.6 seconds scanning a website before focusing on a particular section. They spent an average of 180 milliseconds focusing, or "fixating," on one particular section before moving on.

After each viewing of a website, Sheng and Dahal asked students to rate sites based on aesthetics, visual appeal and other design factors.

"The longer the participants stayed on the page, the more favourable their impressions were. First impressions are important for keeping people on pages," Sheng stated.

The subjects considered sixteen of the 25 websites reviewed in the study favourable, according to Sheng.

Through this research, Sheng and Dahal found that seven sections of the reviewed websites attracted the most interest from users. The participants spent an average of 20 seconds on each website.

These include - the institution's logo, the main navigation menu, the search box, Social networking links to sites such as Facebook and Twitter, the site's main image, the site's written content, and the bottom of a website.

Although use of colour was not part of the eye-tracking study, participants indicated that it did influence their impressions of websites.

"Participants recommended the main colour and background colour be pleasant and attractive, and the contrast of the text colour should be such that it is easier to read," Dahal wrote in her master's thesis.

The use of images was also an important factor in web design, the subjects of the study said. "You must choose your main picture very carefully," Sheng said adding that, "An inappropriate image can lead to an unfavourable response from viewers."

ANI

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