The old adage of 'don't judge a book by its cover' holds little sway among web users, according to a group of academics who are claiming surfers are surprisingly quick to make up their minds on whether they love or loathe a website.
Researchers from the University of Carleton, Ottowa, found that users decide whether they find a website particularly appealing or particularly unattractive within just fractions of a second.
The human guinea pigs in the trial were just as able to tell within 50 milliseconds whether or not they found the site easy on the eye as they would be if they studied the site for longer, according to research journal Nature.
One academic involved in the study, Gitte Lingegaard, told the science journal that such snap judgements can translate directly into repeat visits and loyalty, as users will often forgive subsequent problems with a website and persist with their initial impressions of its quality. Conversely however, this initial reaction can encourage a user to turn his or her back on a site forever.
Lingegaard said: "Unless the first impression is favorable, visitors will be out of your site before they even know that you might be offering more than your competitors."
Jo Best of Silicon.com reported from London.