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An Exercise on First Impressions of Your Website August 16, 2006

Posted by pakman050 in Design, Information Architecture, Internet Marketing, Metrics, Usability.

Below are some non-verbal signals that people give off about themselves. These are signals that people consciously or subconsciously pick up from other people to make a determination of whether or not they like the person they look at. Its what we call first-impression.As an interesting exercise, lets take this idea and apply it to your website. This will give you a quick high-level view of how your site is perceived by people.

What you will need:

  • a printout of your homepage (or any page you want to test, preferably on a white paper bigger than 8.5″x11″)
  • a printout of the list below
  • stopwatch or watch
  • a pen or pencil

What you will do:

Ask people that you need them to take no more than 30 seconds to look at the homepage and circle one from each set of words below (feel free to add or remove sets of words or modify them to phrases from your website and creative objectives).

  • “talkative” or “quiet”
  • “open” or “closed”
  • “interesting” or “dull”
  • “reliable” or “undependable”
  • “exciting” or “composed”
  • “assisting” or “quitting”
  • “friendly” or “reserved”
  • “adventurous” or “careful”
  • “trusting” of “unscrupulous”

Who you will ask:

  • First, do it yourself.
  • Next, ask colleague on the web team to do it.
  • Then, ask a colleague not on the web team to do it.
  • After that, ask a friend that doesn’t work with your company (or client) to do it.
  • Next, ask a relative to do it.
  • Finally, (if you are lucky and daring enough) ask a stranger to do it.

If you wanted to expand just a bit further, a good number of people to ask is 20, and the type of people you should ask are of course people who would use your website. However, the above is a good minimum set of people to ask.

Once done, you will have a general idea of how your homepage presentation fairs at first glance and if you’ve never done it before, you’ve just taken your site through its first set of usability/ user experience testing.

Although usability and user experience testing is by no means this simple, this exercise will give you a good understanding of how people the first impression of your brand, design, top-line content, and layout is perceived by people.

And you will know whether you need to do some more testing or not.



1. Don Candon - November 28, 2006

Very cool exercise. Just wondering where it came from and if you have any follow-up info. Can we use it for a course I am teaching?

2. pakman050 - November 29, 2006

Hey Don.
I got the idea from Nicholas Boothman’s How to Connect in Business in 90 Seconds or Less.
In the book, he talks about First Impressions and how non-verbal signals play their role in communication by (either consciously or sub-consciously) affecting our perceptions. The exercise was actually intended for people in order as a way to drive home the point: that non-verbal communications is important.
So I personified these characteristics for websites. A website is a form of communication one that instantly has to connect with its visitor. Does your website look approachable? Does it look inviting? Does it look complicated? Does it look upper-class and expensive. Etc.
All these non-verbal (or non-textual) and emotional messages that your website emits, are the foundation to the user experience. Just as when we meet someone for the first time, our first-impressions form the foundation of how we will relate and react to this person.
Longwinded answer, but I hope it helps.

3. naisioxerloro - November 29, 2007

Good design, who make it?

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