First Impressions Are Everything: How to Pique Website Visitors’ Interest



It only takes 0.2 seconds for a visitor to form an opinion of your website. Seriously.

An eye tracking study published in 2012 by Missouri University of Science and Technology suggested that people create a first impression about your website in two-tenths of a second or less.

In addition, it takes merely 2.6 seconds for someone to decide if they’re going to stick around on your site or not.

No matter how good your ranking is or how great your content is, if a visitor doesn’t find what they expect, a prompt judgment is inevitable. For a business, this is unfavorable considering 88 percent of online consumers are less likely to return after they have a bad experience. That’s why first impressions matter a lot. The mechanics are very similar to meeting someone new for the first time. You’ll often form an opinion on someone the moment you meet them, sometimes subconsciously.

What Exactly Influences a First Impression?

The visual appeal and design elements of your website are the primary factors that influence your visitors immediately upon landing on your site. Other factors include page load time, content and images. According to a study published in ResearchGate for online health sites, it was found that first impressions were 94 percent design related.

In the study, the participants rejected websites on the basis of two factors; design and content, but the majority was design. The aspects of the website that contributed to the rejection involved:

  • Pop-up advertisements
  • Loads of text
  • Poor navigation
  • Complex layout
  • Inappropriate website name

The study suggested that visual appeal of a website is very important. If a web page is built with a boring interface and design, users won’t explore further at all. Also, a good visual appearance helps build trust in the website and promotes repeat visits.

What Should You Do?

  • Avoid annoying pop-ups on the site
  • Create great but simple navigation
  • Keep things simple

Above all, take users’ feedback into account. You can ask your existing client and subscriber base, or you can simply ask for advice from the experts. For example, is a great community for getting valuable feedback.

Important Website Elements That Favor First Impression

Circling back to the eye tracking study, when participants were asked to rate 25 different websites, it was found that they spent most of their time on the following six website elements.

Here Are the Elements That Engaged Them Most

  • Website Logo: Participants spent about 6.5 secs on the website’s logo.
  • Navigation Menu: The primary navigation got their attention for 6.4 seconds.
  • Search box: This area kept visitors’ attention for more than six seconds.
  • Social Links: Visitors spent 5.9 seconds focusing on the social icons on the website. However, an interesting (but not surprising) note is that social icons interested college students more than the general population.
  • Primary image: Users fixed on the main image/banner on the website for 5.9 seconds.
  • Bottom of the website’s page: The participants engaged with the footer for 5.3 seconds.

In addition, the subjects also recommended the use of proper colors on the main page and the background to make the page more attractive.

What Should You Do?

Make sure you keep these six crucial elements in mind when designing your website.

In addition, you should also consider the following:

  1. Carefully select the hero image that reflects the website’s purpose.
  2. Design a clear logo that reflects what you are or what your business is. It is a very important aspect of online trust building.
  3. Create content that connects with your visitors. They should be able to understand what the website is all about in less than five seconds.

Don’t hesitate to invest in your website design since, as you now know, it plays a huge part in leaving a positive first impression.

Visitors Care About Your Website’s Perceived Credibility

Credibility can be defined as someone or something believable. Every customer subconsciously notices credibility elements that influence their opinion of a company. Because the first impression is created in a split second, it’s important to have as many credibility elements as you can, such as:

  • A well-designed, clear logo
  • Visible contact information
  • Company information (e.g. About Us and homepage content)
  • Trust seals
  • Legitimate customer testimonials
  • Client logos (if applicable) and official Partner logos
  • Links/logos of online publications where you have been featured
  • Frequently asked questions
  • Clean website design
  • Images of actual employees

What Should You Do

Make sure you have these elements properly designed and placed on your website. Don’t try to cram all of these into one section. Instead, strategically place them on the website so it flows. Here’s a great example from Userlike: 

Userlike example of a credible, scanable website

Presenting quality content in a visually appealing manner is the key to a positive impression on your website visitors. Let’s jump back to the study of online health sites published in ResearchGate that I referred to earlier. When participants were asked why they distrusted or disliked a website, 94 percent blamed poor design related and six percent blamed irrelevant content.

In the study that continued, subjects selected the sites from which they could find relevant content presented with relevant illustrations. Other content factors that made the users trust a website was the presence of:

  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Unbiased information
  • Age-appropriate data
  • Use of simple and clear language to illustrate data

What Do You Take From This?

Of course, aesthetics play a big role when molding the first impression in your customer’s mind, but highly relevant and illustrative content is what will keep the user engaged and interested in your website and products/services.

It has been established that Internet users don’t read, they rather scan through the content on a website. So, instead of cramming every detail into your website homepage, try to create scannable content that conveys information through graphics and well-formatted text.

  • Use relevant images that portray what the content is trying to say. Visuals are great at engaging users. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.
  • Avoid using cliché stock images whenever possible. Users can see right through them, lowering your credibility.
  • Use headers
  • Lists are a great way to engage a user
  • Use quotes wherever possible
  • Use data to support your writing
  • Don’t forget to interlink pages wherever possible

A Slow Page Load Is Annoying

Lengthy web page loading time is still one of the biggest reasons why people abandon your website. Slow-to-load pages leave a negative impression and discourage users from visiting the site ever again. Get this: 47 percent of consumers expect a web page to load in two seconds or less. In a time when mobile searches have already passed desktop searches, people don’t expect a slow page load. If a mobile user has to wait for more than 10 seconds to see a page load, he/she will quickly leave the website with a sour taste in their mouth.

Google and Facebook’s introduction of Accelerated Mobile Pages and instant articles sorted this out for mobile users. However, these are very limited solutions to the slow load problem.

What Should You Do?

There are several things you can do in order to decrease the page load time and thus happily welcome your visitors.

  • Work with your dev team to find out what is preventing a web page from loading quickly
  • Remove unnecessary plugins if it’s a WordPress site
  • Use dedicated hosting instead of shared hosting
  • Use lossless compressed images to maintain image fidelity and reduce image file size. You can use Tinypng or to compress your images before using it.

Apart from this, occasionally do a page speed check using Google PageSpeed Insights or Pingdom. These super useful tools will tell you what is necessary to reduce the load time and make the page efficient.


In a digitally connected world where everything happens in a fraction of a second, your website shouldn’t fall behind in the game. When designing a website, always keep your users at the front instead of pushing your agenda.

Often times what we think will work versus what actually works are two completely separate notions. Understanding how website design, credibility factors, and page load time affect a user’s perception of your site will give you the tools required to build a powerful, effective website.


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