New psychology research at Princeton University provides a clue to Internet marketers about what they need to concentrate on. The study was conducted to find out how long we need to make up our mind about a person by looking at their face. It has been known for some time that we make inferences about someone’s character by looking at their face. So the researchers wanted to know how long do we need to make those first impressions? Their study showed that after just 100 milliseconds (the time taken for one blink) we are confident in our interpretations of someone’s character. What’s more, the study showed that by increasing the time there was no difference in our interpretations. All that happened was that the participants were more confident that their original interpretation was correct.

So what does this mean for Internet marketers? It means that it is highly likely that visitors to web sites and readers of emails make up their mind, confidently, within the blink of an eye. You can spend all you like on writing the best copy, or drafting the perfect headline, but your web site visitors will have already made up their mind whether or not they like what you are selling. If they spend longer than 100 milliseconds on your site, they will simply be using the time to confirm their original suspicions. Hence your initial impact is the most important factor in determining online sales success. This means colour, overall layout, graphical elements and the page’s overall “character”. Concentrated on these factors on your web site and in emails and you could well see a sales increase.

Psychological Science, Vol 17, No 7, July 2006, 592-598

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