Is Perception Reality in Web Design?

Have you ever found yourself ordering dessert, not because you are hungry, but because you just liked the way it looked on the menu? Have you ever walked into a brick and mortar store just because something in the window caught your eye? Have you ever taken a liking to someone for no apparent reason?

Ah, the power of visual display!

That is the power of perception. Humans are hardwired to form instant perceptions and make snap judgments based on little more than a vague glimpse of something. Without this ability, our species likely would have died off by now.

At the same time, however, the way people form instant perceptions can make it difficult for you, as a marketer, to create that all-important first impression, based as it is, on the slim whims of your target audience. This is where your web design plays an essential role.

Why Web Design for Your Small Business Matters

Just as many brick and mortar stores have a window display designed to create a distinct impression among passers-by, so, too, your website must be designed, not only to snag the attention of your audience but to evoke a positive first impression on their part.

The challenging thing is that your website must appeal to visitors in little more than the blink of an eye. Google research reveals that within 50 milliseconds, a web visitor forms his or her first perception of your website. Do you know how little time that actually is? It is 0.05 seconds.

Researchers at Missouri University of Science & Technology used eye-tracking technology to discover that it takes approximately 2.6 seconds for a web visitor to land on the area of a website that most influences initial impression. When you have only 2.6 seconds to grab the attention of your audience, your web design suddenly takes on a lot more importance.

So, what portions of your web page are most important? Where is your audience focusing attention? The Missouri study notes the following website sections as garnering the most attention:

  • Your logo (6.48 seconds)
  • Main navigation menu (6.44 seconds)
  • Search box (6.0 seconds)
  • Social networking links (5.95 seconds)
  • Main image (5.94 seconds)
  • Written content (5.59 seconds)

Clearly, it only takes a small amount of time for your web viewers to decide to linger on your site or go elsewhere. So it is essential to make the most of that sliver of time to get the right message across.

Does your website delight your visitors?

Web Design is More than Just a Look

However, your web design must do more than just grab attention. After all, a train wreck grabs attention, but it does not leave you with the impression that you want to see it again. Your web design must be engaging, evocative of some compelling emotion. It must project the right tone and the right image. It must prompt the viewer to take some action. Does your website do that?

Your website must also deliver on its original visual promise. The perception of your business that your website projects must be matched with the reality of what you offer. A mismatch in this critical area is jarring to your audience. It skews their perception and, therefore, the reality of your business.

The Takeaway

Good web design has a significant impact on your potential customers and hence on your bottom line. Perception sells. What perception is your website actually selling? Is there some action you can take to make your web design do more for your business? Contact us to begin a discussion about what we can do to help.

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Tem is the CEO of, a web agency providing web & digital marketing solutions to small businesses. When he's not producing great results for clients, he's spending time with his boys.
Miami, FL Website