You have 50 milliseconds to make a good impression

Turns out, people judge a website by its homepage

7 Jun 2022

Warranted or not, people love to judge a book by its cover. And in a website’s case – it’s the homepage. As it turns out, a website’s home page determines whether a new customer will like and trust your site enough to stay and look around.

According to Adobe, 38% of users will exit your site if the home page is unattractive, and it only takes 50 milliseconds for them to make this decision. On top of that, 88% of your users are unlikely to come back to the site if they didn’t like it the first time. So, making sure your web design is beautiful, easy to navigate and legible should be a business priority, not a nice-to-have.

How do users take in a website?

In a recent study run by Dr Hong Sheng at Missouri S&T, 20 students were shown 25 websites each. They used heat map technology to track the students’ eye movements while they scanned each webpage. The findings showed that students would judge a website within 50 milliseconds – that’s half the time it takes to blink your eyes. They then spent around 2.6 seconds scanning the page before concentrating on one point and stayed for around 180 milliseconds before moving on to the next section.

Where did people look the longest?

Users focused on the logo the longest (6.5 seconds), implying that its design is important to the overall impression of a website. Next was the main navigation (6.44 seconds), the search box (6 seconds), social sharing links (5.95 seconds), main image (5.94 seconds) and the written content (5.59 seconds).

Making a good impression

Dr Hong Sheng notes, “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.” So, how can you make sure users will form a favourable view of your website?

1. Invest in eye-catching design

When participants didn’t like an aspect of the design, they rarely explored beyond the homepage. The aesthetic even trumps usability – 94% of first impressions are design-related. If a website looks unappealing or outdated, the user will immediately have a negative impression of your business and turn to a competitor.

Tips for website design

  • Choose a website layout that is modern and familiar. Users are accustomed to websites designed in a certain way. If you get too creative, users won’t be as likely to stay.
  • Use a beautiful, purposeful main image. Users are more likely to interact with a website when there are interesting visuals. But too many images can be overwhelming so keeping a good balance of images and copy is important.
  • Create a unique visual style – typography, images and design should stand out from competitors and show the company personality.

2. Secure your page

A website using outdated HTTP encryption will show a red ‘not secure’ warning in the URL address bar when it’s visited on Google Chrome. Not a good look!


HTTP data isn’t encrypted, making it easy for third parties to gather data passed between your computer and the website. HTTPS is already the default for Google sites, which scrambles data as it travels from Google's servers to the user's computer.

Payment portals

Use well-known payment gateways for positive brand alignment. A familiar brand partnering with your business will instantly give the impression that your company can be trusted.

3. Make your site as fast as possible

A slow website means 79% of users will never return. On mobile, a slow page taking more than three seconds to load will deter 53% of users. Ever-increasing internet traffic means that user expectations are high and patience for slow-loading is low.

4. Use quality content

It’s important that a website reads well and is typo-free. If you’re not a confident writer, consider hiring a marketing agency to write your copy for you. Here’s what you need from your web copy:

The right tone of voice

To make the right impression, you will need to tell the story of your brand’s personality. The tone you define should be consistent and align with your values. This will help your audience form a deeper understanding of your company.

Easy to read

Use bold lettering and different fonts to highlight each section of your homepage. This works well as users like to skim a website, only reading the copy that they are looking for.

Calls to action

Most first-time users won’t be ready to make a purchase through your website. So, it’s important to make sure the new user learns as much about your brand as possible while they’re there. Prompts like “learn more”, “register today” and “our partners” work well to keep users engaged.

How to know if your website is making the right impression

Once you have made your improvements, you’ll need to test them out. There are three ways to confirm that your website is making a good impression:

1. Audit your site code 

You can find issues that are hurting your chances of a good first impression. Perhaps it's broken links, hidden content, long page load speed times or more. Identifying these will help you clear the blocks that divert traffic.

2. Gather feedback from inside your company

Ask employees to complete a survey.

3. AB test

Organise a focus group to compare your website with others in the same field. This way you can learn which aspects of your website are ranking high and which need improvement.

First impressions are everything

What makes a website attractive is subjective, but we’ve seen how important it is to make sure your page appeals to your target user. To improve your success rate, run a focus group for your design aesthetic, improve your security and speed and then go over your content with a fine-tooth comb.

The biggest online companies have set the standard, and with users judging your website by its homepage in as little as 50 milliseconds, a good first impression is more than a prerequisite – it’s a must.

For help building a website that users don’t want to leave, talk to the team at Solutionists today.


Sina Hunter

date published:

7 Jun 2022