You've got 2.6 seconds to make that important first impression on your website visitors. That's how long it takes them to settle on the most captivating element of your site, according to Missouri University of Science and Technology researchers who used eye-tracking software.
Their findings create a road map for determining how your website design will influence potential consumers.
"We know first impressions are very important," said Hong Sheng, an 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."
Sheng and Sirjana Dahal, a graduate degree holder at the Rolla, Mo., school, used an infrared camera and eye-tracking software in the school's Laboratory for Information Technology Evaluation to monitor the eye movements of students as they scanned Web pages. The researchers then analyzed the data to determine how long students focused on specific sections of a page – such as the menu, logo, images and social media icons – before they moved on to other sections.
For the purpose of the study, they used the websites of law schools. The website sections that drew the most interest from the students were:
• The institution's logo. Users spent about 6.48 seconds focused on this area before moving on.
• The main navigation menu. It was almost as popular as the website logo – subjects spent an average of 6.44 seconds viewing the menu.
• The search box, where users focused for just over 6 seconds.
• Social networking links to sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Users spent about 5.95 seconds viewing these areas.
• The site's main image, where users’ eyes were fixated for an average of 5.94 seconds.
• The site's written content, where users spent about 5.59 seconds.
• The bottom of a website, where users spent about 5.25 seconds.
Sheng noted that use of social media links may be of particular interest for college students, more so than for the general population.
He also said the students mentioned that the use of pleasant colors on the Web page helped make a favorable impression.