Two-tenths of a Second to Form a First Web Impression

When viewing a website, it takes users less than two-tenths of a second to form their first impression, according to recent research from the Missouri University of Science and Technology.

The research also revealed that it takes a little longer - about 2.6 seconds - for a user's eyes to land on the area of the website that most influences that first impression. Users spent an average of 180 milliseconds focusing, or "fixating," on that one particular section before moving on. The data could be useful in helping Web designers understand which elements of a page are important to users.

"We know first impressions are very important," says Dr. Hong Sheng, assistant professor of business and information technology at Missouri S&T. "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 favorable or unfavorable view of that organization."

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

After each viewing of a website, subjects were asked to rate sites based on aesthetics, visual appeal and other design factors. The research indicated seven sections of the reviewed websites attracted the most interest from users and include the logo, the main navigation menu, the search box, social networking links, the site's main image, the site's content and the bottom of a website.