The importance of a first impression

Jason McMillion
13 August 2015

Our minds are programmed to recognize facial expressions and body language. According to a recent *study, a first impression is formed in only 0.1 seconds when looking at a face.

The first impression is an unconscious event where our mind tries to categorize the face and generate feelings depending on different social attributes, such as trustworthiness or dominance. These feelings instantly impact our own body language and behaviour.

”Our minds are experts in facial recognition”

What about something like webpages, banners, and magazine ads?The same mechanism is still at work where the mind tries to identify and categorize what it is looking at. This process takes a bit longer compared to faces, but in only a matter of a few seconds the unconscious has created a feeling based on what you are looking at which in turn impacts behavior.

Imagine you are browsing a magazine and you arrive at a full page ad. How many seconds do you think you will look at the ad? Usually no more than a second or two. But in these few seconds (or less!) your eyes will have fixated on a few different elements and based on what caught your attention, your mind will in most cases urge you to flip to the next page. The first impression was also the last impression.But what if I told you, this no longer has to be the case – you can now make lasting first impressions thanks to technology advancements in the field of eye tracking.

Eye tracking

Eye tracking is a technology and method for recording eye movements to gain insights about the information our brain uses to make decisions.Back to first impressions. What characterizes the information we take in online, i.e. via computers, pads, and mobiles? Well, all the information is visual, meaning our brain makes decisions based on what we see. This is why eye tracking is such a powerful tool for understanding the information our brain processes to decide which links to click on, which articles to read, products to buy, and when to leave a webpage.

During the past five years a lot has happened in the field of eye tracking: Eye tracking cameras are now smaller, cheaper, more precise, and easy to calibrate. This means that instead of expensive lab equipment eye tracking studies can now be conducted virtually anywhere. A laptop, a portable eye tracking camera, and software are all that is needed.

By running eye tracking tests on your marketing material and webpages you can find out what messages are perceived, what is being missed, and if the material causes confusion: All important factors to form a first impression that leads to consumer engagement.

So what's the difference?

Altering our first impressions has a major impact on how we perceive information and what actions we take. A good first impression can be 100%-500% more powerful in terms of attention, understanding, and positive actions (for example conversion rates on a website) compared with a more negative first impression. So regardless if you are producing marketing material, product package design, or webpages, make sure they conjure a lasting first impression.The first impression, mostly an unconscious reaction, is extremely important because it drives our actions, perhaps more than we would like to admit. Our eyes don't lie!

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Photo: Ryan McGuire

*Källa: http://www.pnas.org/content/111/32/E3353.full

Jason McMillion founder of Upstain - First impression eye tracking, have been working with the web, analysis and marketing for over 16 years. He wants to help companies increase the response from their marketing efforts and achieve higher conversion rates on their websites. If you are curious?, want to read more or want to get in touch with Jason?