I’ve been saying this for years due to finding from a study done at Stanford University about web credibility. Now here is more evidence of what is common sense:
Don’t judge a website by its homepage might be good advice in some cases, the evidence shows that few visitors take it to heart. On the contrary, within milliseconds a website is judged favorably or unfavorably, based almost exclusively on whether it “looks good”.
Some parts of the article that stand out to me are:
In the crowded and competitive world of the web, companies hoping to make millions from e-commerce should take notice, the researchers say. “Unless the first impression is favourable, visitors will be out of your site before they even know that you might be offering more than your competitors,” Lindgaard warns.
Not only should ecommerce companies take notice, but anyone whose website forms an important part of their business, whether or not transactions are taking place on it.
So what are the key ingredients of a good-looking website? Caudron suggests that the amount of graphics on the page should be strictly limited, perhaps to a single eye-catching image. “It’s not about getting as much stuff on the page as possible,” he says.
I agree. Too much content/graphics (see amazon.com) means nothing stands out. Less is more. Don’t give in to cheap advertiser syndrome.
These days, enlightened web users want to see a “puritan” approach, Caudron adds. It’s about getting information across in the quickest, simplest way possible. For this reason, many commercial websites now follow a fairly regular set of rules. For example, westerners tend to look at the top-left corner of a page first, so that’s where the company logo should go. And most users also expect to see a search function in the top right.
The point is that rules have developed as a matter of course. This is why I typically steer clients away from things that are too creative. Sure, it’s different, but different doesn’t always mean better. Sometimes the best strategy is to look and work like everyone else because that’s what the user expects and wants. I believe in giving the user what they want (which shouldn’t be confused with what the user says they want).
Of course, says Caudron, the other golden rule is to make sure that your web pages load quickly, otherwise your customers might not stick around long enough to make that coveted first impression. “That can be the difference between big business and no business,” he says.
Thank goodness that more and more people are using high-speed Internet and buying large monitors. It makes a web designer’s job a lot easier and provides more options. Now if we can just get the rest of you off of dial-up we’ll be getting somewhere.