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The Internet Science

Web Users Judge Sites Instantly 223

Ant writes "This Nature.com news article reports that potential readers can make snap decisions in just 50 milliseconds: 'Like the look of our website? Whatever the answer, the chances are you made your mind up within the first twentieth of a second. A study by researchers in Canada has shown that the snap decisions Internet users make about the quality of a web page have a lasting impact on their opinions...'"
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Web Users Judge Sites Instantly

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  • That's Crap (Score:5, Funny)

    by Cobralisk ( 666114 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @02:00AM (#14479755)
    This article is obviously rubbish
  • by biocute ( 936687 )
    But is it as fast as getting slashdotted?
  • Duh (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Lord_Dweomer ( 648696 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @02:02AM (#14479762) Homepage
    Well, let me be the first to say "Duh, of course we do."

    Having all this information at our fingertips is awe-inspiring, yet completely useless if we can't sort through it properly. That's why companies like Google and datamining companies make so much money.

    As society and people evolve to adapt to the new technology, we build our "defenses" against bad information. We have so much to go through that unless we are able to filter out bad information that quickly, we'll never get anywhere. Not to mention the fact that in this day and age of spyware/adware, plagiarism, virii and big brother everybody needs to learn what information to avoid.

  • /. Design (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 16, 2006 @02:04AM (#14479770)
    This is why I kept away from /. for so many years
    • This has more truth than many of you think. Even though I'm as geeky as they come, it took years before I actually spent any real time on Slashdot. And it still looks the same as it did back then (ie. like ass).

      I like Slashdot now but the look was a put-off for a long time.
  • by strobexii ( 601986 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @02:06AM (#14479779)
    It hasn't stopped us from visiting Slashdot. Over and over and over again...
  • Funny... (Score:5, Funny)

    by versiondub ( 694793 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @02:06AM (#14479781) Homepage
    I thought playboy.com was drivel when I was a young lad...but over the course of about 5 years, that all changed.
  • by saladasalad ( 817881 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @02:08AM (#14479791)
    it took me just 50 milliseconds to disagree with that article!
  • by AuMatar ( 183847 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @02:11AM (#14479800)
    I think these are the two big determiners- if the first thing I see are 20 banner ads, I'm looking elsewhere. If I can't easily see how to get to the data I want, I'm looking elsewhere. These are easy to tell very quickly (ads on 1 glance, navigation by looking for a left column or top navigation bar). Most sites that have people leave that quickly fail one of these 2 tests, I think.
    • by bit01 ( 644603 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @02:59AM (#14479959)

      Another big determiner for me, on major sites anyway, is time-to-load. I'll frequently abort a page before it's even finished if I'm not reading something else.

      A long time-to-load probably means a badly configured server, or graphics heavy and often content free site. If a graphics rich site like BBC news [bbc.co.uk] can get it right, why can't anybody else?

      Incidentally, 50ms can't be right - very few web sites take less than that to load.

      ---

      Open source software is everything that closed source software is. Plus the source is available and copyable.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 16, 2006 @04:32AM (#14480262)
        Incidentally, 50ms can't be right - very few web sites take less than that to load.

        Yes, and if you read the article, it's clear that the study does not show what it claims to:

        Even though the images flashed up for just 50 milliseconds, roughly the duration of a single frame of standard television footage, their verdicts tallied well with judgements made after a longer period of scrutiny.

        But there is a major flaw. When the image is gone, the participants don't automatically stop making judgements about it.

        50 ms (a.k.a. three refreshes at 60 Hz) is long enough for a person to see something and remember basically what it looks like. In fact, your mind will continue to perceive the image well after the display has gone away. This phenomenon is part of what used to be called 'persistence of vision'.

        So when the experimenters ask the subject a few seconds later what their impression was, and the subject takes a second or two to indicate a preference, this is not necessarily a 50 ms snap judgement. There are whole seconds during which the image was probably being thought about.

        Now, it may be possible that a snap judgement really can be made in 50 ms. But this study does nothing to prove that.
      • Another big determiner for me, on major sites anyway, is time-to-load. I'll frequently abort a page before it's even finished if I'm not reading something else.
        i'll often push lots of pages from a search to tabs and i'll look at the faster ones first. the slow ones will probablly finish loading but are far less likely to get actually looked at.
      • A long time-to-load probably means a badly configured server, or graphics heavy and often content free site. If a graphics rich site like BBC news can get it right, why can't anybody else?

        Their good web design and configuration are certainly a big part of it, but, er... they're not exactly on a level playing field with the average website.

        If I had this [bbc.co.uk] network available, I reckon I could get a graphics-rich page to load pretty damn quickly... Just looking at those connections is making me get all hot an

    • It's the same with shopping in the high street, at least for things I don't actually want to be shopping for.

      If I go into a clothes shop and within the first 30 seconds can't see in which corner of the store mens' trousers are located (or whatever), then I won't hang around to play search.
    • And if I see Flash (or at least the rotten yellow bar that tells me the page has Flash on it) then my fingers hit Ctrl & W before I can think about it (which quite often annoys me when I've only got the one tab open ;)
  • When I first looked at the article, it said " Web Users Judge Sites Instantly."
    Now it says "Web Users Judge Sites In The Blink of an Eye."

    What is this, some kind of trick? :)
  • Oh Dear (Score:5, Informative)

    by HotmanParisHiltonKam ( 944151 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @02:14AM (#14479809)
    Quoth TFA "Even though the images flashed up for just 50 milliseconds, roughly the duration of a single frame of standard television footage, their verdicts tallied well with judgements made after a longer period of scrutiny."

    The human reaction time is about .25 seconds. This study erronseously assumes that the judgement is made during the time the image is displayed - of course, the image retention time on the eye end the lasting photographic imprint on the memory means that the judgement can happen well after the image is gone.
    • of course, the image retention time on the eye end the lasting photographic imprint on the memory means that the judgement can happen well after the image is gone.

      And most absolutely does! Nice catch.

    • Re:Oh Dear (Score:5, Informative)

      by SnowZero ( 92219 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @03:25AM (#14480037)
      You are definitely on the right track, though its not clear if its the article summary that's botched or the study itself. Trained cognitive psychologists at least should know better, so I'd lean toward an innacurate summary. The title should probably read "users can judge websites after seeing them for only 50 msec". The "photographic" effect you are referring to is called after-image, and can last long after the initial stimulus is gone. They could make a stronger claim than I stated above if they put up a visual distraction image after the 50 msec (visual memory studies do this a lot). But the summary doesn't mention it so we can't know for sure.

      Regarding human reaction time, it varies depending on the task, but rarely is less than 100 msec (usually when you expect something to happen, such as runners starting a race). That means some tasks can be completed faster than 250 msec thouch, so that's not a good lower bound to quote if you are trying to debunk something. 50 msec certainly is too fast for anything I'd call "judgement" though, as people usually cannot even press a button that fast in response to an event.

      At any rate, the slashdot summary is far from an accurate description of the phenomenon, but since when is that news...

      P.S. I am not a psychologist, but I do have a B.S. double in cognitive science.
    • I didn't bother to read the study (so I don't know whether they did this), but it is possible to supprees the after image: you do it by replacing the original image with something called a "mask" after the desired interval (50ms in this case). Such a mask could be a gray picture, or a picture of noise or something similar. That effectively blocks the after-image effect.

      I'm reasonably sure that 50ms is too short, at least it is for visual processes involving character recognition; 70ms is an absolute minimum
    • Re:Oh Dear (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Eivind ( 15695 )
      I agree. Looking at something for 50 milliseconds, and then judging does not imply that we judge in 50 milliseconds.

      That claim is as stupid as blinking someone '15*31' for 100ms, and then, when the person is (eventually!) able to say what that is, claim the person does multiplication in his head in 100ms, he does nothing of the sort.

  • by Steamhead ( 714353 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @02:14AM (#14479810) Homepage
    How a friend linked me over MSN to a new flash animation on JibJab, myself having seen one before without incident didn't mind, however as soon as I loaded up their site they used flash to get around my pop up blocker and pop up an ad for Western Union.

    From now on I will neither go to Jib Jab or even think of using Western Union.

    I do not *need* to see their content no matter how good it apparently is.
  • goatse.cx (Score:4, Funny)

    by heatdeath ( 217147 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @02:15AM (#14479816)
    I guess now would be the most appropriate time for people to start posting goatse.cx links. I can tell you what, I think my reaction time was quicker than 50ms the first time I accidentally clicked on that link at work. *shudder*
  • by Hosiah ( 849792 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @02:21AM (#14479842)
    from the response it's getting. No kidding, people make snap judgements about *everything* in about 50 milliseconds. That's about how long it takes for you to decide if a member of the preferred sex is attractive to you, whether an offered kind of food looks appealing, whether or not a suspect is guilty when you hear their arrest break on the news, whether or not you like the TV channel you just flipped to...nothing special about web pages.

    Probably a way to take better advice from this is to design your pages so they load *FAST* without too many animations, images, and effects. For instance, the dreaded Flash animation page which presents you with a blank box and a progress meter in the middle ticking up from 1%...which makes me say:

    "Hey, I just discovered your site: Tell me WHAT'S loading! Put the name of your site on the page. Direct me to a header page that asks me if I want to see your Flash animation. Put something to read on the page while your dingus loads. Put menus and widgets there, or a graphic, or anything to hold my interest while it loads."

    Sites that violate all of the above lose me in *less* than 50 milliseconds.

    • I think it takes people 50ms or so to decide if anything is attractive -- opposite sex, website, car, etc.

      Another interesting thing is that given that people generally agree if something looks attractive or not, there is an objective reason to say that things are pretty or not. This makes it similar to quorum algorithms in distributed systems: pretty is what most people think is attractive. Ugly is what most people think is not attractive.

      • Never judge things by appearance and what the majority thinks of them. This is an instinctive reaction and this is what people usually do and it is wrong.

        There was a very cool research article published recently. It compared reactions of people to a selected set of especially "scary and disgusting" faces of serial killers and other hardcore criminals with their reaction to an morph face generated by averaging from all the delinquents used in the study. Funnily enough they found this face calming and attract
    • whether an offered kind of food looks appealing

      No, that depends on whether you're hungry.
    • "Hey, I just discovered your site: Tell me WHAT'S loading! Put the name of your site on the page. Direct me to a header page that asks me if I want to see your Flash animation. Put something to read on the page while your dingus loads. Put menus and widgets there, or a graphic, or anything to hold my interest while it loads."

      See, thing is, if they didn't put the flash up first, if they routed you to a sensible page first and had a link which said 'check out our cool flash animation', no-one would ever

    • NOT 50ms.
      200ms okay. 100ms barely. 50ms no.
      I know I can seek a picture in a directory filled with JPEGs by holding down space in IrfanView (resulting in a blur of pictures showing up in fullscreen preview, about 4-6 a second) and I find it easily (though always needing to go back, sometimes 10 or so pics, the signal to release space bar travels way slower to my hand than "match" signal from visual input).
      24FPS is the minimum animation speed for people not to see separate frames. That's 40ms. At 50ms (20FPS)
    • "Probably a way to take better advice from this is to design your pages so they load *FAST*..."

      Not only should they be displayed fast (at the click of a button!) they should be designed to "load" who and what they represent into your mind fast.
  • by saskboy ( 600063 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @02:23AM (#14479848) Homepage Journal
    "Firefox prevented this site from opening a popup window."

    Whenever I see that on a website, right there I think to myself, "This is an annoying, and/or low quality website with suspect information on it."

    • by thetzar ( 30126 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @02:36AM (#14479888) Homepage
      "Firefox prevented this site from opening a popup window."

      Whenever I see that on a website, right there I think to myself, "This is an annoying, and/or low quality website with suspect information on it."


      Funny, I see that every time I go to cnn.com...

    • by yoz ( 3735 ) *
      Whenever I see that on a website, right there I think to myself, "This is an annoying, and/or low quality website with suspect information on it."

      The essential and consistently-excellent Urban Legends Reference Pages [snopes.com] site is the notable exception to this rule. (Okay, it has plenty of suspect information on it, but at least it's marked as such.) It's a shame they have those pop-ups; thankfully, FF1.5 now blocks the fastclick.net that always seemed to get past FF1.0.
    • Whenever I see that on a website, right there I think to myself, "This is an annoying, and/or low quality website with suspect information on it."

      Sadly, because of the dotcom era it became publicly acceptable to put konfetti in your newspaper. Having pop-ups was worth three kabillion per view and most of the serious sites drank the kool-aid as well. It was the "Britney Spears" kind of marketing, she's a big star because she's everywhere and she's everywhere because she's a big star. I wish it was a reliable
  • by humungusfungus ( 81155 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @02:23AM (#14479850)
    "Man judges book by cover"

  • by Errandboy of Doom ( 917941 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @02:26AM (#14479859) Homepage
    Blink [amazon.com] by Malcolm Gladwell.
  • Kind of ironic, I go to view an article that talks about how the looks of a website influence our impressions of the site within 50 ms, and the pink in the article is so bright and ugly it hurts my eyes. Needless to say, I didn't RTFA.
  • Right. What's wrong with my website?
  • I'd agree - may not with in 1/5 of a second, but relativly quickly. Normally I make my judgement on a site with in a few seconds. To be fair though, with so many websites out there on the internet, why do I have to stay on a site that I dont like at first glance - I can find 20 more that will appeal to me with in 1 google.
  • 50 ms? This may be the case when you are just surfing around for entertainment, but I think that if you have a purpose and you are looking for some specific information, you will probably read at least a line or two. So, I guess it depends who your site is targeted to. If your site exists for the purpose of entertainment, then it better look good.

    http://www.stockmarketgarden.com/ [stockmarketgarden.com]
  • I usually let my 28.8kbps connection decide if I like the site, and I am a very impatient fellow.
  • ...this page [goatse.cx]

    I think this is one of the very rare times that Mr Goatse is on-topic.

  • It seems to me that the results suggest that humans can develop mental processes akin to Bayesian filtering [wikipedia.org].

    Suppose that there are subconsciously-obvious visual cues that are generally indicative of worthwhile or worthless websites -- sufficiently obvious that they can be perceived in the space of an eyeblink -- and that, as we expand the corpus of websites to which we have been exposed, we subconsciously condition ourselves over time to recognize these cues.

    The fact that lengthier review of these pages
  • This is exactly why I love the instant-gratification of Thumbs-Downing web sites just like I do TV shows on my tivo, with stumble upon (http://www.stumbleupon.com/ [stumbleupon.com]) in firefox.
  • Well documented by: (Score:3, Informative)

    by grolaw ( 670747 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @02:59AM (#14479961) Journal
    Malcolm Gladwell in, "Blink." See, http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0316172324/sr=1-1 /qid=1137394659/ref=pd_bbs_1/002-1304227-3896858?_ encoding=UTF8/ [amazon.com]

    Nothing to see here. Move along.
  • by mattwarden ( 699984 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @03:01AM (#14479966)
    Commenters on /. have for years been able to judge articles without reading anything more than a marginally accurate 3-sentence summary riddled with typos. Why would scientists think the same would not apply to impressions of websites?

    Obviously another waste of government research funds that could be better applied to [insert controversial proposed government project aimed at protecting against terrorism].

    By the way, I didn't have a chance to read the article.
  • Interesting, but who's web connection or web server can load a page in 50 ms? Prety much none.
  • it's a flash frontpage with NO alternative method of navigation...
  • How long do the authors think it takes the average web-surfer to see that a page doesn't have anything they're looking for, is filled with banner adds or was laid out with an ugly-stick? 50 ms? Less?
  • by Pecisk ( 688001 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @03:32AM (#14480054)
    ...are my requirements. Ads should be well integrated in site, if I will have a interest, banner will earn a click from me anyway. Navigation should be easy to spot on - I usually check in five secs to see if site contains ANY information I need. If it doesn't, well, maybe I will return later. Maybe not.

    And last, but certainly not least point is that site should be easy on eyes - no eye-bleeding content, no flashing (good looking moving objects are just fine), good balance. I personally think that it is one of main points why Google rocks [tm].
  • Agreed about this (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Jugalator ( 259273 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @03:38AM (#14480067) Journal
    It's too bad many companies still don't understand that more important to know how to find ad affiliaties and where to show the ads is where to not show the ads, and which style of ads to pick. I can imagine them needing ads, sure, but although both these sites cover e.g. Computer RPG news and reviews, there's a difference between using IGN.com [ign.com] and RPGDot [rpgdot.com] to get them. I couldn't even see much but ads on the entire front page of IGN.
  • Web Site Peeves (Score:5, Interesting)

    by queenb**ch ( 446380 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @03:44AM (#14480081) Homepage Journal
    50 milliseconds huh?

    Here's my list of things that almost guarantee that I'll leave your site behind, never to look back.

    1 - Music - Your taste in music is not mine. Your music sucks!
    2 - Pages that don't load - It's usually the page that looks like it has exactly what you were searching for too!
    3 - Pages that don't contain the information "as advertised" - you know the ones...you click on a link and it goes to some search page that tries to reset your home page.
    4 - Pages that are more banner ad than web page - Get over it. No one wants to see that much advertising.
    5 - Anything that blinks - Thank god the W3C deprecated the blink tag
    6 - Anything that demands I install a plug-in for "the user experience" - espeically those stupid cursors
    7 - Anything that spawns pop ads
    8 - Anything that doesn't present easy to read and use navigation (www.thetrueagency.com/true.html is a prime example of this)
    9 - Anything that doesn't have a sufficient amount of contrast between the text and the background.
    10 - Anything that uses more than 5 different fonts on the same page - Its a web site, not a comic book.
    11 - Sites that redirect to another redirect - We get the idea that you move - a lot.
    12 - Anything that uses more than 6 colors on the same page - It looks like a circus barfed on your page.

    2 cents,

    Queen B
    • Thank god the W3C deprecated the blink tag

      W3C never did any such thing. In order for the BLINK tag to be deprecated, it would have had to be part of the HTML specification at some point in time, which it never was.

      That's the good news. The bad news is here [w3.org].
    • 7 - Anything that spawns pop ads

      Perhaps even worse are pop-unders, as they present a surprise when closing down your broswer window. It was for this very reason that I stopped reading Dilbert online. At one point, I was even presented with a dialog box which wouldn't go away without clicking on 'OK' (and hence taking me to the advertiser's site).

    • 2 - Pages that don't load - It's usually the page that looks like it has exactly what you were searching for too!

      This drives me insane. I notice it the most when doing a Google image search.

      "OH! That's exactly what I need!"
      (click)
      (wait)
      "404?! AAAAAH DAMN IT NOT AGAIN"

  • by Skudd ( 770222 )
    I've heard it from instructors, read it in books, and seen it in action (but not actually measured it): Customers gather their first impression of your business by the cleanliness and order of your establishment, the appearance of the staff, and the general atmosphere surrounding it, all in 0.3 seconds. Yes, first impressions are made in 0.3 seconds.

    It's something that's pushed relatively hard in business classes, management seminars, etc., and can mean the difference between high customer turnout or your b
  • Am I the only person who keeps reading that headline as: "Web Site Judges Users Insanity"?

  • I wish... (Score:3, Funny)

    by SQLz ( 564901 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @04:12AM (#14480189) Homepage Journal
    I wish people had the same brain power while operating a car.
  • Dialup Users? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    As a dialup user. I often have 60 seconds or more to look at parts of the page before it loads completely, so if I decide I dislike it in x number of millisconds, it is partly a result of staring at it while it loads for over a minute, and perhaps disgust at the slow loading time.
    Many sites don't even get fully loaded, since I leave them in disgust because they are taking forever to load because they have to much crap to load on the page.
    Also, any site that refuses to load unless I use flash
  • Nothing new, every webmaster knows the tip. You just add one or two subliminal pages just before displaying your main page. I did it for my own website and the visitors are now blogging about it like crazy, leading to huge traffic. What you put in your sublimal pages is up to you but remember it must load fast and be displayed only for 25-40ms.
  • Oh, the irony. That article has the world's tiniest font on there. Their layout/navigation might look nice, but if you can't read the articles without about fifty words to a line, it's not worth it. These sorts of rapid studies will not determine if a page is nice to read, but only get views on the layout and navigational elements.
    • Absurdly tiny. They're probably looking at only in IE, which renders text quite a bit larger by default than either Firefox or Opera. I know we can change the type size in our browsers ourselves but they should have a font size change button like the Sacramento Bee [sacbee.com] and many other sites do. (The tool bar with the font button on it appears on the left once you get to an article. Unfortunately The Bee does require registration. Try registrationsucks/cantcatchme as an ID/pwd pair.)

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