There are all kinds of stats that point to the importance of digital design and creative when it comes to your website and your digital marketing overall. The most compelling of those stats is the speed with which opinions are formed online. According to a Google study back in 2012, people form opinions of a website in less than 50 milliseconds, quicker than the time it takes to blink.

But why are people so quick to judge? And why did 94% of the reasons for mistrusting a website relate to the website’s design in a recent 2018 study? When it comes to how people form first impressions, the psychology community offers some interesting insights.

We can start to understand how we create opinions of websites, logos and brands, when we look at how we form opinions of people. According to an article on Psychology Today:

The ability to quickly recognize the expression on a strangers’ face and the intent their posture is signaling could mean the difference between extending your hand or running for your life…Researchers out of Princeton University have found that people make judgments about such things as trustworthiness, competence, and likeability within a fraction of a second after seeing someone’s face.

From a survival standpoint, our environment has conditioned us to interpret people, places and things to determine if they pose a threat to our survival. This skill has allowed us to understand and pinpoint subtle differences in what we see. For example, when it comes to facial expressions the difference between a smirk and a frown is extremely minimal, but we are able to intuitively recognize this difference extremely quickly.

This ability to discern expressions is the same skill that helps us formulate first impressions of things other than people. When looking specifically at design, a study from Fabrik found that color is the primary influence on first impressions. This opens the door to the psychology behind colors and how different shades and tones actually bring out different feelings and emotions.

Without getting into the psychology of each color, suffice it to say, colors drive first impressions. But so does font, formatting, contrast, repetition, consistency, alignment and more. All of these design elements come together to create a digital identity. From a business perspective, it is extremely important to identify what you want your digital design to “do,” and then create designs that visually communicate this, in a way that resonates with your audience.

Not only does your digital design help people form first impressions, but your ability to be interesting/creative will get people to take action. According to a 2013 study by the Harvard Business Review, creative campaigns that were original, engaging, aesthetically pleasing, etc., generated double the sales impact as campaigns that weren’t creative.

Ultimately, there will be a moment where a customer or potential customer is exposed to your brand online. In many cases, that moment will determine if the person keeps researching your business, or moves on to a competitor. This is why brand, logo, design and overall aesthetic is so important to success. Design is subjective, so there is no formula, but there are principles of design worth considering.

The reality is people formulate first impressions extremely quickly. No matter where a potential customer is seeing you for the first time online, the difference between winning a new customer and being ignored takes place in just seconds. Does your brand invite people in or are you pushing them away?

We offer a variety of Creative Services to help you create positive and effective first impressions. Contact us to get started.


Rithm Marketing is a full-service digital marketing agency based in Metro Detroit. Our approach is part art and part science, bringing together creativity, artistry and digital design with data analysis, technical know-how and best practices. All digital marketing channels offer opportunities for artistry and technique. We bring the two together, helping your business generate more calls, clicks, form fills, downloads and store visits.

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