By Bob Walsh
As micro-ISVs, we are all aware that our web sites need to be attractive and professional if we expect to sell our software or convince customers to subscribe. Actually, the situation is far worse: we have about 50 milliseconds to make or lose each visiting prospective customer.
In a recent study at a Canadian university, the researchers, they asked their volunteers to twice rate a set of web site screen shots on a sliding scale. The volunteers had half a second (500 milliseconds) to make their judgment. Then the same volunteers were asked to study the same sites and more thoughtfully rate them. The two sets of ratings correlated highly.
Then, Dr. Gitte Lindgaard of Carleton University in Ottawa had a different group of volunteers rate the same sites, first seeing the sites for only 50 milliseconds, then repeating with a viewing time of 500 milliseconds and finally having the subjects more leisurely rate the sites. The three sets of ratings also correlated highly.
What Lindgaard found was that in the first run through, once the subjects had decided in 500 milliseconds yea or nay on a site, that judgment stuck when they were asked to review the site at normal speed. What”s more, on the second study, the opinion formed in just 50 milliseconds was just as fixed as the one formed in ten times that amount of exposure.
“Unless the first impression is favorable, visitors will be out of your site before they even know that you might be offering more than your competitors,” Lindgaard wrote in the report.
“Visual appeal can be assessed within 50 milliseconds, suggesting that Web designers have about 50 milliseconds to make a good impression,” said the report, published in the journal Behaviour & Information Technology.
Here”s the one-two punch of Lindgaard”s study as far as you”re concerned:

  • Your micro-ISV site has way less than a second to win or lose your customers.
  • Once they”ve decided, that”s that: If you win them, their future judgments will reinforce their initial opinion.

This last bit, that your prospective customers will continue to interact with you if you gave a good first impression so that they can “prove” to themselves that they made a good initial decision is called by psychologists the halo effect, and by us, what converts a prospective customer into a money-paying customer.
Right about now, two questions might just be on your mind:

  1. What”s this bloke”s site look like?
  2. What do I have to do re my site?

As of today, my micro-ISV”s web site is nowhere near what it needs to be to pass the 50 milliseconds of fame rule. It”s too wordy, too unprofessional, outdated and nerdy. So, before getting to your other question, I have some work and some research to do. Look for another post on this subject soon.
In the meantime here”s the takeaway: What does your micro-ISV site communicate in (much less) than a second? Do a little research of your own by asking anyone you know who has not seen your site to take a very quick look at it and email you the one or two words that come to mind; or, take a quick peek yourself.

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