Love at First Sight: First Impressions and Why Good Design Matters

First impressions count. From the moment you walk into a store or load a website, you get a sense of what a brand is about. And you’ll instantly make judgments about its trustworthiness and authority — whether you’re conscious of doing this or not.
It only takes 50 milliseconds (0.05 seconds) for a user to form an opinion about a website. And first impressions are 94% design related. The opinion of the user —  good or bad — depends on several key factors.

How does this impact your ecommerce business?

From the time it takes your site to load, to the choice of colors and photographs, to the usability and functionality of your site — it all leaves an impression. Whether you’re strictly an online business or have an online presence to support your brick and mortar location, it’s important to consider what impression you’re making on your visitors.

Here are a few things to consider:

How Users Assess Trustworthiness

1. Users Determine a Website’s Credibility by Design

• 75% of customers make judgments about a company’s credibility based on their website’s overall design

• 46.2% of participants assessed the credibility of ecommerce sites based specifically on the visual design of a site, including layout, typography, font size and color schemes.


“I would like to think that when people go on the Web they're very tough integrators of information, they compare sources, they think really hard,” says experimental psychologist B.J. Fogg, “but the truth of the matter—and I didn't want to find this in the research but it's very clear—is that people do judge a Web site by how it looks. That’s the first test of the Web site. And if it doesn't look credible or it doesn’t look like what they expect it to be, they go elsewhere. It doesn't get a second test.”


Despite users claiming to value breadth and depth of information on a site, only 6% commented on the actual content of the website. This shows most users won’t stay on a poorly designed website long enough to actually evaluate the deeper levels of content.

No matter how good your products are, to get a user to stay on your website long enough to make a sale, you need a website that looks professional and inspires confidence.

2. Keep Designs Simple and Familiar

Google researchers have explored the interconnection of two design factors and found that they work together to create a good impression.

  • Visual complexity — how complex the visual design of a website looks

  • Prototypicality — how representative a design looks for a certain category of websites

They found that users strongly preferred websites that appeared to have low complexity and high prototypicality — in other words, websites that looked easy to use and looked similar to other websites they are familiar with. Furthermore, users need both together to create a consistently good impression.

Most consumers come to ecommerce websites with an existing idea of how they function and look. For beauty and lifestyle brands, with web savvy and visually fickle consumers, a poorly or even an unexpectedly designed website can turn away potential customers.

Eye tracking results of users in seconds

3. Know What Forms the First Impression by Following the Eyes

An eye tracking study at Missouri University explored where users spent their viewing time in assessing a new website:

  • Site’s main image: 5.94 seconds

  • Written content: 5.59 seconds

  • Footer: 5.25 seconds

  • Logo:  6.48 seconds

  • Navigation Menu: 6.44 seconds

  • Search box: Just over 6 seconds


“Thus, our study provides an evidence that users care for how and where the website can be navigated followed by body of the homepage. The quantitative results from interview also indicate that users’ first impressions are highly affected by several design factors like use of colors, font types and size, use of images, easier navigation and so on.”


Knowing this pattern makes it essential that these elements be well designed and clear on your website. Good design must clearly demonstrate to the user where they are, what’s there, and where they can go. For most ecommerce sites, this means making products and their benefits front and center.

4. First Impressions Are Stubbornly Difficult to Change

The cliche, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression” is now supported by recent psychological research. After people have created a bad first impression, they will remember positive impressions as “exceptions to the rule” rather than re-write their initial impression.


“The first impression will dominate regardless of how often it is contradicted by new experiences.” 

— Bertram Gawronski


While it’s tempting to focus on developing the product and skimp on “extras” such as design, a poorly designed website can actually hurt your brand — even long after it has been replaced. If the design is giving a negative impression or seems suspicious, cheap, or unprofessional, you not only lose a sale but will have a lot of work later to change the customer’s mind.

To make a long story short, great products are not enough. Consumers implicitly trust brands that have invested in design — whether they are conscious of it or not.

Good design tells your users that you care about them. That you are willing to invest in your brand. That your products don’t represent a race to the lowest price but stands for quality. 

Good design differentiates extraordinary brands. It makes your website feel trustworthy and encourages visitors to stay and become buyers, buyers to return and become fans.

How does your website stack up?